Monday, September 8, 2008

Writing Monday: Converting Books

Why is the blog up so late? Monday is almost over!

Shhh. The Writer isn't feeling well again. She had a bad weekend.

What is with her? I'm going to trade her in for a new Person. One that's younger and not so puny... and richer so she can buy me all the kibble I want.

Never mind. She told me what she wanted to talk about today--and it is still Monday. She talked to her students this summer about finding the right genre. Sometimes the decision is obvious. You wouldn't want to write about a serial killer for a preschool picture book. Other times the decision isn't so clear-cut.

Years ago The Writer wrote a picture book called "The Walnut Man's Granddaughter." It was a fine story, but seemed to be burdened with too many themes and plotlines. A friend suggested turning it into two picture books. The Writer liked that idea, but when she started to take it apart, the story wouldn't cooperate. She decided to write episodic short stories that would add up to a whole. That flopped too. By working backwards, The Writer wrote a novel called Finding Day's Bottom, which she considers her finest work.

Yeah, it's all downhill now.

Now The Writer is facing a similar problem. Once she wrote what she calls an "edgy" easy reader. It has all the right elements: good length, good sentence structure, humor, engaging characters, fun plot. And yet, and yet, something isn't quite right. The Writer is going to revise the book. But every time she looks at it she sees a perfect easy reader! She thinks, What is wrong with those editors! Can't they see perfection when it's under their nose?

And yet, and yet, something isn't quite right. The Writer realized the format is wrong. It's not an easy reader but a chapter book. It's not that simple to slam an easy reader into a chapter book. So The Writer did what she always does: she went back to basics. She found some chapter books and typed out not one or two chapters, but the entire book! She could read the book, mark it up, make notes. But by typing it out, she spotted things that wouldn't be evident analyzing the story as a reader. She analyzed it as a writer by becoming the writer of that book.

Next time you have to convert a book from one form to another, try "becoming" the writer. You might be able to pinpoint the troublespots.

Zzzzzzz. Wha? Are we done? Finally!

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