EDITING THE SHAPE OF YOUR NOVEL

Today’s piece is part three in a series I’ve been doing about editing. Week one  http://wp.me/ppiTq-Fl looked at different methods writers use to edit their work and last week I discussed editing bit by bit – looking for the little things that need changing. http://wp.me/ppiTq-FB

So today, I wanted to talk about changing the shape of your novel and explain what I mean by that.

To me, editing the shape of your novel is about its structure and point of view. It’s about the focus of your story and the events and people that make it unique.

Writers have different weaknesses – it’s a case of identifying and understanding the things that cause problems in your writing, and addressing them in future drafts.

I know that my brain seems to work in mysterious ways and often puts things out of sequence, so this is something I have to pay particular attention to in the editing proccess.

OUT OF ORDER

You’ve probably gathered from previous posts that I’m a bit of a plotter. Before I start writing, I know who my main character is, three major events that will happen, two turning points, the climax and usually how it will end.

I plot these in what I think is a perfectly logical sequence, but usually after I’ve written a draft or two I find that some things are not in the right order. It’s not that they’re wrong; it’s just that there is sometimes a better place for an event or a piece of writing in the story.

I know I have a tendency to ‘write out of order’, so I always try to stand back and ask myself, ‘Does this event or piece of writing fit here?’

To be honest, I still don’t always pick these things up, and that’s where it pays to belong to a writer’s group or even having one good crit buddy can be of huge help here.

And even when I look at a page with a critical eye, I realise that there are often paragraphs that can be moved to improve the overall structure. It’s something I always look for in a story – are things in the best sequence?

It’s also important to stand back from your story and decide whether you have a proper plot arc or just a series of events. The proper plot arc needs:

  1. A hook at the beginning
  2. Rising tension
  3. Turning points
  4. A climax when everything comes to boiling point and something major changes for the character or their life
  5. A conclusion, where all the loose ends are tied together.

When you’re looking at the structure of your story, think also about how you have chosen to tell it.

Is your story straight chronological narrative or does it have flashbacks? Some stories are told with mulitiple points of view. Others are presented in alternative forms like blogs, diaries or letters. Does the form you have chosen work best for your kind of story? Are the flashbacks in the right places and sequence?

POINT OF VIEW

Point of view is all about who is telling your story? When I’m looking at point of view in the editing process, I ask myself,

  1. Is the character I have chosen the best person to tell this story?
  2. Have I used a consistent point of view?
  3. Are my tenses consistent?
  4. Does the point of view I have chosen allow me to get enough information to the reader?
  5. Will readers engage with the person telling the story and what happens in it?

With my current YA novel, Saving Sarah Davis, I realised during the editing process that the answer to question 5 was ‘no’.  Sarah’s voice wasn’t strong enough and that in some ways she wasn’t very likeable – so it was back to the plotting board. I went back and worked on my character until I found her real ‘voice’. Once I knew exactly who she was, everything fell into place and even some of her annoying traits became more bearable.

When I’m trying to discover my character’s voice I don’t just look at them, I look at their relationships and how they interact with others.

If a publisher likes your story, but didn’t quite engage with your character or says that it’s missing that illusive ‘something’ they are looking for, chances are it could be ‘voice’. Particularly with children’s and YA novels, your main character needs a strong, unique voice and point of view.

I’ve written more about  point of view in another post at my blog https://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/2010/01/18/tuesday-writing-tip-pondering-point-of-view/

A CLEAR FOCUS

When I’m looking at the shape of my novel in the editing process, I also try and sum up in a paragraph what my novel is about. If I can’t do that then I’ve probably strayed too far from the plot and introduced too many complicating factors that might not need to be there.

For example: Letters to Leonardo is a story about a 15-year-old boy who gets a letter from the mother he thought was dead. He copes with her mental illness and the turmoil of her reappearance in his life by writing letters to Leonardo Da Vinci.

Of course there are many more themes and events in the story, but this is basically what it’s about.

If you know exactly what your story is about, this makes it a lot easier to convey to a publisher or to the reader.

I hope you have found this post useful. If you have any editing tips or insights about how you work, I’d love to hear them. Feel free to share your experiences with blog readers in the comments section of this post.

Next week on Tuesday Writing Tips we’re going to look at editing language and dialogue.

Happy writing and editing:)

Dee

EDITING BIT BY BIT – TUESDAY WRITING TIP

As Susanne Gervay remarked in a comment on last week’s post on this topic http://wp.me/ppiTq-Fl ,

“Editing needs NOT to be rushed.”

And it’s totally true. How many of us rush through the rewrites to get our manuscript off in the next mail or submitted to that great competition happening in two day’s time? Or perhaps, just because we’re sick of the fact that we haven’t sent anything ‘out’ in ages? How many of these manuscripts actually end up being published in this form? Not many I’d say.

Editing a draft manuscript is like sipping a nice glass of wine or savouring chocolate; it needs to be tasted and revered, to be given the time to express its true flavours.

When I take editing slowly, look at chapter by chapter, page by page, paragraph by paragraph, line by line and even word by word, I discover that so much can be improved about a draft that I may have thought was ‘finished’.

KNOW YOUR ENEMY

Know your weaknesses as a writer and you’ll be able to make your manuscript a lot tighter.

These are the things I specifically look for when I’m editing because they seem to be things I keep doing in my writing. So until I break the habits, I need to watch out for them:

1.            I say something is happening and then I show it. You  just need to show what’s happening and character’s reactions; don’t need to say that it happened as well. Here’s what I mean:

It annoyed Amanda when her mother nagged her. “Can’t you just trust me for once,” Amanda folded her arms in front of her and glared at Mum.

Don’t need “It annoyed Amanda when her mother nagged her.” The reader can tell from what Amanda says and doses that this is so.

2.            Find a ‘favourite’ word and overuse it. A simple word search will reveal this.

3.             Write a paragraph back to front so that the consequences come before the actions.

4.            Use a lot of character names or places beginning with the same letter.

5.            ‘That word will do’ is another of my writing enemies. A word, ‘won’t do’.

You have to find the word that works best – the one that has the strongest and most relevant meaning.

6.            Boring sentence structure – if it bores you, it will bore the reader. You need to vary it and make it flow. Look at joining some of the shorter sentences. Short sentences are great in a suspenseful situation to convey tension.

In the lead up to conflict you can look at varying the length and structure – perhaps using metaphors and other devices to give the reader a feel for your setting and insights into characters.

KNOW YOUR FRIENDS

1.            Your objective self – try and step back from the manuscript and read it as if someone else has written it.

2.            Your voice. Reading your manuscript out aloud will reveal if a word has been repeated. You can than do a search for this word to make sure you haven’t overused it.

3.            Reading your manuscript in small pieces will help you pick up bad paragraphs. For example, edit two or three pages then take a short break so that when you go back the manuscript is fresh.

If you edit for hours at a time without a break, it can be easy to miss the ‘small’ things in your manuscript.

4.            Make up a style sheet. This is simply a piece of paper laid out like a table with a letter of the alphabet in each box. List all your place and people names next to the letter of the alphabet they start with. This will show you if you have overused a letter and which ones you’ve hardly used at all.  You can also do one of these for your characters and this will help you pick up if they have changed eye or hair colour mid manuscript.

5.            A good reader, crit buddy or group can prove to be your best friend/s. They will pick up things you haven’t even thought of. I find that with writing YA, it’s particularly useful to have a teen reader because they will pick up where they voice and behaviour of a YA character is not authentic.

6.            A style sheet for abbreviations, anagrams etc so that you can be consistent every time.

7.            A Thesaurus is one of my best friends and helps me get rid of mundane or repetitive words in my manuscript.

If you have some other editing devices for picking up the little things in your novel, we’d love to hear about them.

Last week we looked at editing methods and this week we’ve looked at some of the nitty gritty to do with editing.

Next week we’re going to look at delving deeper into your story and editing its shape to make it stronger.

Happy writing and editing:)

Dee

* * Special thanks to Karen Tayleur for introducing me to and providing me with sample style sheets.

THERE’S MORE THAN ONE WAY TO EDIT – TUESDAY WRITING TIP

I might have mentioned before that Letters to Leonardo took about thirty drafts before I felt I had it right. Although as someone pointed out to me recently, there is no ‘right’ in writing. It’s just a case of getting your work to a stage where it conveys what you want it to in the best way possible.

I know I’ve talked about editing before but in the last few weeks I have discovered I’d been going about it the wrong way.

I have realised that editing involves getting inside your novel just as much as writing it and it’s probably even harder because instead of carrying all these wonderful ideas around in your head, you have committed them to print or computer. How do you step back and distance yourself from your own work?

Recently I discovered that the way I was editing wasn’t working for me and that I was missing a lot of the subtle things in the rewrites – not the grammar, the spelling or the character names and details. I was missing some of the nitty gritty, like the places where my character’s voice lapsed or became too old for him/her – where the language being used was out dated or just not believable for that character.

I wasn’t picking up the bits where my sub plots had faded into almost oblivion. I was surprised at things I was picking up in other people’s writing but not my own.

What I realised is that for me, editing on screen doesn’t work. It’s helpful for picking up typos and spelling, but it doesn’t allow me to immerse myself in my story again. It doesn’t allow me to truly enter the world of my story .

HERE’S HOW SOME AUTHORS EDIT

  • Directly onto their computer (doesn’t work for me)
  • By printing out their manuscript and reading it as if it were a book written by someone else. (This is my method)
  • By handwriting their manuscript out again. (I’d get one book written every 100 years if I tried this)
  • By typing their manuscript out again from memory (My memory isn’t good enough although I sometimes do this with a scene if I think it needs more depth. This helps me to think logically about what’s happening in the scene as if it were a real event. From that I can sometimes work out what’s going to happen next.)

HERE’S HOW I EDIT

  1. Print the entire manuscript out.
  2. Read it through as if it were written by someone else (with a pen handy so that I can mark bits – lots of them).
  3. In my first edit I look for plot and character inconsistencies – logic problems
  4. In my next edit I look for typos and places where the language could work harder.
  5. Next I take a break, set the manuscript aside and spend a bit more time with my characters in my head.
  6. In my next draft I look at voice. Does my character do the things and sound the way I want them to? Is their voice authentic? Are they someone the reader will relate to or even like?
  7. EXTRA TIP ON VOICE – if you’re having trouble with voice, find a book that you think has a strong, authentic voice and see if you can work out how the author achieved it. I’m not saying copy that voice (you won’t be able to anyway because character and author voice are linked) but think about why it resonates and stays with you. I discovered this recently when I picked up Girl Saves Boy by teen author, Steph Bowe and suddenly I knew exactly how my MC should sound. Renaming my character can also completely change their voice and behaviour. My MC (main character) in my current Work In Progress was called Tara. Just by turning her into Sarah, she has become a softer, more likeable person.
  8. Are the story events in the right sequence? Are there turning points that advance the plot and the main character?
  9. Next I look at line by line, scene by scene and chapter by chapter. If I can’t summarise a chapter in a paragraph then there’s probably too much waffle in it. (More about this in next week’s blog post).10. Do I still like my story? If I do, then I send it to writer friends to be critiqued, or give it to my kids if the age group is relevant. They are very honest and helpful.
  10. Next I take a deep breath and examine all feedback constructively.
  11. I put the manuscript aside again for a month or so and go through the entire process again.

So I guess what I’m really saying here is that even when you think your manuscript is ready to send out, chances are that it’s not. Submitting is a great thing to do, but don’t be impatient and send your work out as soon as the first draft is done. You might only get one chance to impress a publisher or agent.

I’d love to hear how you edit. Feel free to share your experiences and tips in the comments section of this post.

Next week’s post – Editing Bit by Bit. We’ll be looking at getting to the heart of your book and editing line by line, scene by scene and chapter by chapter.

Happy writing:)

Dee

A WRITTEN WORD IS NEVER WASTED – TUESDAY WRITING TIP

Welcome to 2011. I’m feeling very optimistic about the forthcoming year and I hope that yours is full of happiness, fun and writerly successes.

For me, a new year is all about opportunities. It’s a chance to start afresh with new resolutions, goals and achievements.

But that doesn’t mean that you have to disregard everything from the past. Over ten years ago I submitted a script to Blue Heelers, a tv police drama. They received hundreds of submissions every week and I got down to the last twelve. I didn’t get the gig, but I did have a fabulous day on the set of Blue Heelers learning how it all worked – how the actors practised their lines – how the show was produced. That in itself was a valuable experience.

Recently, my Blue Heeler’s submission was put to good use in another way. I am currently preparing a submission to a publisher for an MG series. I love my characters and the whole concept behind the series and of course I hope that a publisher will too. After reading Aleesah Darlison’s tips on this blog on how to plan and pitch a series I realised there was a lot more involved than just writing book one and coming up with ideas for other books to go with it.

I had to put together a proper proposal to convince a publisher that my series was worth taking a risk on. But I wondered what sort of information to include in my submission. That’s where my Blue Heelers experience came in handy. After I had been to see the show being filmed, they supplied me with a series bible so that I could submit a follow up script. The Blue Heeler’s series bible showed me exactly what sort of information I needed to know about my characters and setting, and how to present it. So even though I never had a script accepted for Blue Heelers, the experience and the words I wrote for my submission were far from wasted.

In the last few days I’ve had to make the difficult decision to delete huge sections of my YA novel because even though the words are well written, they don’t really fit with the story – are not consistent with my main character’s voice.

These words might never see the light of day again, but what’s good about them is that they helped me get into the story – helped me understand and get to know my character better. In short, they were probably really backstory and shouldn’t have been in the manuscript in the first place.

So even though I liked those words and they took time to write, I don’t believe they were wasted.

Whatever you tackle this year, look at it as an opportunity to hone your craft, to make your writing better, to make your work irresistible to publishers and readers:)

You may be surprised at how the words you write this year might be of help to your future writing career.

So these are my tips:

  1. Never look on words as wasted. Whatever you write is an opportunity to learn and hone your craft.
  2. Don’t be afraid to cut ‘beautiful words’ from your manuscript if they don’t fit with your story. These words probably helped you get to know your character and story better…and who knows, they might turn up in another manuscript.
  3. Be willing to use knowledge and words from the past to help you with current opportunities.

I’d love to hear your stories about situations where words you have written in the past haven’t been wasted even if they weren’t published.

Feel free to share your experiences in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing and may words bring you happiness in 2010

Dee:)

AWASH WITH IDEAS? – TUESDAY WRITING TIP

Our creek is flooding for the first time in ten years so it seemed kind of serendipitous to talk about what to do when your head is awash with ideas and you don’t know what to do with them all or which one to start working on.

I’ve been having that problem lately. It could be because my mind is in overdrive with so many things happening in the lead up to Christmas. When I’m really busy it always seems to generate far more ideas than I can cope with at any one time.

And I don’t know about you but I get horribly confused when I try to compartmentalise everything in my head. I find the only thing that brings me peace is to write it all down – get those ideas out of my head and onto paper (or computer screen) and work out what to do first.

For example, here’s what is floating around in my head at the moment:

  1. 8 book submission to educational publisher for series for the new National Curriculum;
  2. Rework two YA novels;
  3. Work on next draft of the MG novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2010;
  4. Work on possible e-book on writing tips;
  5. Work on a series I pitched to a publisher at a conference;
  6. Work on the next draft of the novel I wrote for my May Gibbs fellowship in March;
  7. Submit a couple of articles to magazines.

And that’s just on the writing front. When I look at this list I realise there’s actually probably about five year’s work there and here I was thinking I could get it done in the next twelve months.

See that’s one of the great things about being a writer – yes, it can take a while to get your work accepted but until you do, you don’t actually have any deadline so you can spend as long as you want perfecting your work.

When I look at this list I realise that the key to avoiding total meltdown is to prioritise. This is the order that works for me.

1.  The first thing to work on is ANY project that has the REALISTIC possibility of bringing me income some time in the near future.

2.  My second priority is any rewrites that a publisher might have requested before they decide whether they are going to publish my work.

3.  My third priority is anything I have pitched to a publisher where they might have requested more.

4.  My next favourite thing – probably relates to my headspace and the main character I feel closest to at the moment.

So I guess what I’m saying here is set yourself short and long term goals – but make them realistic. Allow yourself enough time on one project to get it right before you move on to the next. Unless you have a specific publishing deadline, you don’t have to be in a hurry.

It’s great to get all of your ideas out of your head and into a journal or whatever format works for you. Then you can concentrate on each task, one at a time.

Once you have worked out the order of things, it’s a lot easier to switch off from other ideas and just focus on what you are doing in the here and now – what your priority is at the moment.

Every writer will have a different sense of which tasks are the most important – which ones to tackle first.

I believe that if you just take it one rung on the ladder at a time, you will reach the top and fulfill your goals in the end.

Good luck and happy writing!

Dee:)

P.S. I’d really love to hear about your strategies for when the creative juices overflow and you have more ideas than you can handle. Just leave your comments here:)

TUESDAY WRITING TIPS – PREPARING FOR THE NEXT DRAFT

Writers and creators work in different ways. Some progress slowly, deliberating over every word until it’s perfect – these are usually the ones who don’t need to do many drafts of their novel.

Others like me, race ahead at a million miles, writing down everything that’s in their head before they forget it, then do many drafts to polish and add layers.

I’ve just finished the next draft of a YA novel I’ve been working on for a long time. I started it in my early days as writer before I really knew much about plotting or story flow. So a lot has changed from the early drafts and I’ve done quite a major structural edit.

I think this has made my story stronger, but it hasn’t been without its problems. Moving chunks of your story around can cause your narrative to become disjointed and inconsistent so that’s something you have to look out for in your next draft. In my story for example, my main character’s brother stole their mum’s car and for the sake of the story structure I had to move this event to the middle of the novel. When I read my draft, I discovered that my main character was now talking in Chapter Four about her brother stealing the car when it hadn’t actually happened yet.

I marked this on the manuscript but I also added it to my ‘Notes for editing the next draft’.

I keep this running list as I’m working on a draft and I find it’s a really helpful tool. It has all sorts of notes about character, setting, themes, plot consistencies etc. It probably won’t make much sense to you, but fortunately it does to me. It’s just a great way of keeping track of all the detail that becomes a mish mash in my head if I don’t write it down – all the things I need to look out for or add to my next draft. Here’s the list for the next draft of my current novel – some are things to add, some are changes, some are reminders of things to keep in the foreground:

  • school musical
  • sort bits with counsellor (that’s one of the problems arising from restructuring the story)
  • make sure plot flows
  • eliminate too many references to Cleo
  • Maintain retro clothes theme
  • sewing costumes
  • What happened to Mum’s car? (That was the stolen one)
  • More showing less telling (that’s on my permanent list)
  • More setting and character detail (I tend to just get the story action down first)
  • Different teen settings  – teens don’t always sit around on lounge suites all day
  • Other settings – party, school, train, sports training, sleepover, nightclub, cafe, milk bar, railway station
  • Exercise routine
  • Teen Girl (that’s a magazine)
  • White ceiling, cream curtains and pastel walls (mc is redecorating her bedroom)

These aren’t all the notes, they’re just a sample to show you what I mean. The other thing I have done with this manuscript is a chapter by chapter summary to help me ensure that everything is happening in the right order. Some agents actually ask for a chapter summary as part of your submission.

This is what one of my chapter summaries looks like, but you can use whatever format works for you:

CHAPTER THREE:

ACTION: Tara has to deal with consequences of kids at school finding out about Ed.

SETTING: School yard at lunch time

TIME: Friday

Now that I have my editing notes and chapter summaries I feel ready to tackle the next draft, knowing that I have suggestions and solutions for structural and detail improvements to give my story more continuity and depth.

I’d love to know how you prepare for your next draft. Feel free to share your tips in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing:-)

Dee

HOW TO THROW OUT YOUR 65,000 WORD STORY – And Use The BEST BITS To Build a Better One

I’m currently working on my next YA novel, Street Racer.

This novel was one of those ones that just came to me. The main character sat on my shoulder and told me his story – and I knew who he was and what he wanted from life.

The problem was, he told me his story in verse.

This wasn’t actually a problem for me, but it was for my publisher. Apparently, verse novels don’t sell.

More important than the publisher’s comment was the feedback from my teenage son. My eldest reads just about anything, but he told me he wouldn’t read a verse novel and neither would any of the boys he knew.

Street Racer was a book that I WANTED teenage boys especially to read. This story was really important to me so I had to try and rework it in prose.

I’m now on the fifth draft and it’s better – but still not working. In the transition from verse to prose I’ve had to add a lot more detail and here’s what’s happened:

  1. I’ve ended up with character ‘devices’ that don’t ring true.
  2. I’ve ended up with too much plot detail that takes the focus away from my main character.
  3. The setting needs to be more clearly established.
  4. Some of the character reactions aren’t authentic.

All these things were pointed out to me by my editor on the weekend – and she is absolutely right about every single one of them.

I read my latest draft over and over, and had it workshopped by a number of writer friends, but none of us picked these things up. Of course we’re not trained editors, but it made me wonder why.

Another author friend, Sandy Fussell and I were talking about this and I think she’s right. She says that workshoppers and the author can get distracted by beautiful writing…and I think it’s true.

If something sounds good when you read it, it can be hard to recognise the fact that it’s not actually relevant to the story or doesn’t move it along…and shouldn’t be there.

After thinking about what my editor had said and my discussions with Sandy, I realised exactly what the problem was with my story. In the transition from verse to prose, I LOST my character’s voice – and to some extent, my character.

So hard as it is,  this means discarding my 65,000 word current draft and starting again. There are lots of parts I can use. I think the plot is sound and I think that most of the other characters in the story are working well. There are some action scenes that I like that will hopefully just need a ‘tweek’ and I don’t think the dialogue needs a whole lot of work. So these are the good bits that I can use in the next draft.

But for the rest of it, I’m going right back to basics. I’ve started by doing another interview with my main character and trying to find his voice again.

I’ve asked him all sorts of questions about

  • where he lives
  • what his relationships with his family and friends are
  • what makes him happy or sad
  • how he spends a typical day
  • how he sees himself
  • how others see him
  • the best thing that could happen to him would be
  • the worst thing that could happen to him would be
  • his biggest problem
  • how he’s going to solve it
  • things/people/situations that are stopping him from getting what he wants

Fortunately, despite the fact that he’s a teenage boy, he has had plenty to say. He has let me inside his head again… and although he’s not quite sitting on my shoulder yet, he’s getting closer.

I’ve also realised there are too many issues in the current draft so I’m taking out one of the main characters to simplify the plot and strengthen the themes that will stay in the manuscript.

And I’m starting my next draft of Street Racer from a different point – from somewhere further into the action.

Have to go now. Ric is calling me. He’s impatient for me to tell his story – and get it right this time.

Happy writing

Dee:-)

MY AMAZING MAY GIBBS ADVENTURE DAY 24

After finishing the first draft of Book One last night, today was a day for sleeping in and enjoying the sights of Brisbane.

A non-writerly friend, came to visit with her gorgeous little girl, Sophie and we spent the morning exploring the Roma Street Parklands, which really are a work of art.

Roma Street Parklands in bloom

So many places to explore, water dragons scuttling across in front of us, and garden beds out in full bloom.

It has been a while since I’ve had to stop at flowers so a little person can have a “shmell”.

If we could incorporate the innocence, wisdom and wonder of our children, I’m sure our writing would always be beautiful.

Children think with all their senses, it seems to be something that adults have to consciously remember.

After a lovely time in the gardens it was back to my “Brisbane Home” to work on my “From Portrait to Prose” workshop at the state library.

I’ve also decided that I can’t maintain so many blogs, so I have spent some time incorporating some of the features from my blog http://tips4youngwriters.wordpress.com into this blog.

I hope you like the new Want to Be a Writer and Writing Tips pages.

Now it’s time for reflection about draft one of my novel. As I move onto the editing tomorrow, these will be the things I’ll be looking out for:

  • Another friendly Brisbane local

    Holes/inconsistencies in the plot

  • Lapses in dramatic tension
  • Changes in writing style
  • Changes in voice
  • Telling not showing
  • Foreshadowing – have I left enough clues for the reader?
  • Places where the writing is dull
  • Places where I have given the reader too much information

Wish me luck! It’s a challenge, but I’m looking forward to it.

Happy writing.

Dee:-)

TUESDAY WRITING TIP – REVIEWING vs EDITING SKILLS

Tuesday Writing Tips is back here today! I’m so excited because my writerly friend, Claire Saxby is visiting  RIGHT NOW to talk about her gorgeous new book baby.

Today is the day that Claire Saxby’s There Was an Old Sailor, and my Tuesday Writing Tips blog tours cross over. This is a first for me and my blog, so I hope you enjoy the journey with us.

I’m reviewing Claire Saxby’s beautiful new book, There Was an Old Sailor, and I’ll be talking about reviewing vs editing skills. Claire has a reviewing tip of her own which I’m sure you’ll find useful.

But first, she agreed to answer a few questions for us.

1.    What is your favourite sea creature in the book?

I like the way the squid swirls through the pages, but I think my favourite in the book is the ray, with his green and spots. He looks as if he’s planning to keep himself as broad as possible to try to avoid being swallowed. He doesn’t look panicked, just resolute.

2.    What is the worse thing you ever swallowed?

Ooh, you’ve brought back memories of my early childhood. I did like to chew things. I swallowed several plastic eyes from toy cats and other toys. All with no ill effects!

3.    I believe this story is a real favourite in classrooms. Can you tell us why?

I think it’s because of the absurdity of it, the idea of a sailor being able to swallow all these sea creatures. Children also enjoy the rhythm and soon join in. It also doesn’t hurt that I take in a three-dimensional sailor with a wide open mouth, and a set of the sea creatures for him to ‘swallow’.

4.    Do you have any tips for new authors interested in doing classroom visits?

Moo. Perhaps in private. I was once told to ‘moo’ before any classroom visit. It does two things. It helps to warm up your voice and the very act of mooing tends to help break through nervousness.

And this might sound obvious, but read your book to them. Even if they’ve asked you to talk about your process or story writing, they still want to hear an author read their story.

NOW FOR THE REVIEW OF THERE WAS AN OLD SAILOR

Okay, I’ll admit right from the start that Claire is a writerly friend of mine, but that has nothing to do with how much I love her new picture book, There Was an Old Sailor.

It’s based on the well-loved There Was an Old Woman who swallowed a fly, but this aquatic version puts a whole new slant on things, and has a happy ending.

The rhythm of the text moves the reader along at a cracking pace, but it’s the action and descriptions and the amazing drawings by Cassandra Allen that make this picture book such a wonderful addition to any library.

Okay, so what the sailor does is actually a bit icky (although kids love icky) but his kind eyes and jolly demeanour brought to life by Cassandra Allen make him totally endearing.

This book is full of humour, and text and illustrations that will enthral young readers. It also introduces them to the amazing creatures that inhabit the sea. The Old Sailor is a great character and the resolution is satisfying for the reader. It’s a great book for the classroom – especially for those grades studying sea creatures.

My favourite bit:

There was an old sailor who swallowed a shark.

It must have been dark when he swallowed the shark.

MY TIPS ON REVIEWING vs EDITING SKILLS

In my experience, editing skills and reviewing skills are not that different. That’s why it can be so useful for a writer to review other people’s books. It teaches you what to look for…what are the things you like/dislike in what you read?  What draws you as a reader to a story.

The similarities I see between reviewing and editing are that both require you to look at:

  • Does the opening grab the reader’s attention?
  • Does the story maintain reader attention?
  • Are the characters well drawn?
  • Is the dialogue realistic?
  • Does the story appeal overall?
  • Is the voice unique and appealing?

These are all questions worth asking yourself when you are editing your own work.

CLAIRE’S TIP ON REVIEWING

You don’t have to love a book to review it favourably. Imagine the target audience for the book. Will it satisfy them? Let that guide the review.

It has been so much fun having Claire visit us today.

You can also catch up with Claire at some other great blogs on her tour:

Monday 8 February: Sally Murphy’s Writing for Children <http://www.sallymurphy.blogspot.com/>

Tues 9 February: Dee White’s Tuesday Writing Tips <https://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/>

Wed 10 February: Dale Harcombe’s Read and Write with Dale http://www.livejournal.com/users/orangedale/>

Thurs 11 February: Robyn Opie’s Writing Children’s books <http://www.robynopie.blogspot.com/>

Fri 12 February: Lorraine Marwood’s Words into Writing http://lorrainemarwoodwordsintowriting.blogspot.com/>

Sat 13 February: Mabel Kaplan’s Tales I Tell <http://belka37.blogspot.com/>

Sun 14 February: Sandy Fussell’s Stories are Light http://sandyfussell.blogspot.com/>

Our Tuesday Writing Tips tour continues next week at Sandy Fussell’s blog where we’ll be talking about what writers need to read. Hope you can join us then. Here’s the itinerary for the Tuesday Writing Tips tour:

DATE BLOG TOPIC
2ND February 2010 Claire Saxby’s bloghttp://letshavewords.blogspot.com Writing Picture Books – Leaving room for the illustrator.
9th February 2010 Dee White’s bloghttps://deescribewriting.wordpress.com

(That’s here:-)

Reviewing ‘There Was an Old Sailor’Reviewing vs Editing skills.
16th February 2010 Sandy Fussell’s blogwww.sandyfussell.blogspot.com Writers Need to be avid free range readers
23rd February 2010 Robyn Opie’s blogwww.robynopie.blogspot.com How to make your story longer – adding layers.
2ND March 2010 Angela Sunde’s blogwww.angelasunde.blogspot.com More about Point of View – head hopping.

Thanks for dropping in Claire. It has been great to talk with you about your beautiful new picture book,
There Was an Old Sailor.

The Tuesday Writing Tips blog tour continues next week. If you have a writing question, feel free to leave it in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing.

Dee:-)
P.S. Don’t miss tomorrow’s post at https://deescribewriting.wordpress.com It’s all about How “NOT TO” Scare Away Publishers and Agents”.

TUESDAY WRITING TIPS – TOMORROW’S TIP – REVIEWING vs EDITING SKILLS


Don’t miss tomorrow’s interview with author Claire Saxby, and a review of her gorgeous new picture book, There Was an Old Sailor.

This is a pioneering event in blogging; two blog tours will cross over. In a post about Reviewing vs Editing skills, Tuesday Writing Tips Blog Tour will cross over with Claire’s blog tour for There Was an Old Sailor.

Catch the writing tips and info this Tuesday (that’s tomorrow) at https://deescribewriting.wordpress.com Meet Claire and find out about her brand new book.

Hope to see you here.

Dee:-)

P.S. Don’t miss Wednesday’s post “How NOT to Scare Away Publishers and Agents”.