Asking my books what they want to be

Posted: August 19, 2011 in process
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Right now I’m in that “space between”. That is, I’ve sent my 7-9s novel to an agent and there’s nothing I can do until an answer arrives.

So since I’m not very good at having nothing to do, I rewrote a picture book I’d been stumped over and reworked several times. Today was obviously its day, and I think it’s now “fulfilling its intention”. That’s an idea I got from freelance editor Lucy Cuthew, who described on Write4Children how she goes about editing a book when it arrives on her desk. She says:

“I came to realise that editing a book is really about understanding it. When you start to understand what it is that a book wants to be, then all you need to do is help it become that. You simply need to highlight the places where the text is not helping the book become it’s ‘best self’. Then, if you are really brave, you can suggest ways to help it do that. I suppose that’s how I edit a book: by trying to make it be the best version of itself that it can be.”

I think that’s what Cornerstones helped me do with the novel that’s now with the agent awaiting a response. And, as I say, it’s what I’ve been doing with the picture book, without realising it. You just know when it’s become itself! For a start, the main character told me he wanted to be called Leggy instead of Sid! You know, I think responding to that fact really helped me make the necessary changes throughout the 400 words.I like it now.

Anyway, feeling fuelled with energy due to it being a decent day (is that four this summer?), I’ve been holding in mind exactly the same “what does it want to be?” this afternoon while rereading my finished adult novel – asking it what it wants to be, revising where necessary (though it’s pretty much okay I think) and generally getting it ready to submit to the Myslexia competition, which you can read about here and which closes on 30th September.

That’s enough work for one day in August, so it’s wine o’clock and time for dinner. And after dinner, an appointment with Mary Hoffman’s David. If you haven’t met him yet, I do recommend it. I think it’s crossover, but maybe YA. Not sure. But it’s a great way to pass an hour or two.

A recommended read


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