My husband works in the construction industry. His job is to supply contractors, large and small, with the equipment they need for their respective projects. Sometimes it’s an air compressor, or a welder or any number of things that are hard for me distinguish. But according to my boys, he has the cool stuff too, like bulldozers, excavators and dump trucks. Over the years, those projects have ranged from hospitals, university dormitories, and even a grocery store or two. From time to time, the projects are also demolitions. How convenient! See where I’m going with this? I can stick with my theme. (Because I do not have my own home renovation to have learned from… and I’m not sad about that!) If you missed last week, or any week for that matter, I’m in the process of a major revision of my picture book manuscript. I’m tearing it down and going to build my story back together. Like any remodel, I’m hoping it resembles the original with a noticeable facelift. I want to keep the emotional core of my story, I want to keep the main character, and I’m pretty set on the support staff too. At this point, it looks like every other aspect is on the chopping block.
From my crash course in demolition, I learned that as soon as the tear-down phase is complete, the clean-up begins. This is when the contractor sorts through the rubble, determining what’s trash and what’s not. Perfect! That’s exactly where I’m headed. I used the following questions to help guide me through my manuscript cleanup. (These were also picked up in a recent webinar I attended called How To Be A Better Critique Partner by Heather Alexander. I figured it would be wise to turn them on myself.)
- Who is the protagonist? Well, this one was easy, I created him after all. I elaborated in my Knots post, that I talk to him, asking questions and trying to learn more about him. I do need to know ALL about him; the good, the bad and the whiney. (He does whine a little in my story. Which breaks cardinal rule number one in the house I grew up in… thankfully my parents have softened a bit as grandparents. I wonder if imaginary grandkids count too?)
- What does he want? He desperately needs (in the way five-year old’s do) a solution to the enormous problem staring him in the face. He’s Bored. I’m talking painfully bored, the kind that makes you restless and irritable. He wants to have fun but is having trouble finding someone to help him.
- What is his ultimate goal? To salvage his day, which seems to be spiraling, if you ask me. It’s going to take something BIG to get his day back on track.
- How will he achieve it? He starts with all the usual suspects; friends and family… even daring to broach the topic with his mom. He strikes out. I don’t want to give away too much, he does ultimately come up with a solution but not before striking out a couple of times.
- What will happen if he doesn’t? As a mom, a bored kid is a ticking time bomb of the worst sorts. They (at least my own) get whiney, emotional and utterly distraught. Boredom, once it sinks in is terribly difficult to shake off, especially when your five. He needs to figure something out, or there’s likely big trouble looming in the distance.
So, I think all of this is my ‘good stuff’, the salvageable parts of this story that I’ve been toiling and tinkering with for the better part of a year. What didn’t make the cut? Well, the first thing to go was the rhyme. I’m feeling good with that decision and looking forward to getting to know this new side of my writing self. Many of my word choices, I would imagine, are also holding the story back. For some reason, the ‘less is more’ philosophy I ascribe to doesn’t translate into my words. I almost often use too many words to explain myself, both in speaking and in writing. I know I have at least 200 words to shave off from where my manuscript stands now. I also need to keep the emotional theme of my story securely in my cross-hairs, and any parts that contradict, or deviate from the emotions I’m trying to convey, need to go. Regardless of how attached I am to them. I do know that I need to learn more about ‘pacing’ so that my story can efficiently move in the direction it needs to. I see another webinar in my future.
If I can be honest, some days my ‘trash’ pile feels tall, and my ‘keep’ pile feels small. The good news is that one the rubble has been sorted, the next part is the dirt work. If I can be thorough in what I’m doing now, I will have the space and the tools that I need to build a brilliant foundation for this story. Plus, I know where I can get a bulldozer if I need one
Thanks for reading, come back anytime!