Thursday, July 30, 2015

Your Story Is Not What You Thought*

*if you thought what I thought

This summer, I've been participating in two writing classes, KidLit Summer School: The Plot Thickens from Nerdy Chicks Rule and The Craft & Business of Writing Children's Picture Books from the Children's Book Academy.

Both courses have been very helpful. But even with as many aspects of writing that they have delved into, my major revelation so far has been that your manuscript can best be likened to a Legos wall turned Transformer.

It's not at all what I thought - that your manuscript is a lilting, beautiful story, your gently quirky, humorous and painstakingly created word-baby that you write from beginning to end.

No. No, no, no. No.

It's more like Legos.

You build that story block by careful block following the formula for your genre of choice. So then you have your first draft. Which you keep re-writing and having people critique until about draft #1,000. But then . . .

. . . revision strikes. You take blocks out. You move them around, replace them with a different color, make the blocks overlap each other in some places, make them line up in other places where they didn't before. Throw a whole bunch of blocks out even though you really, really, really love those purple blocks that you put in there just so, with loving affection. 

And then this happens:
because you took out the wrong blocks or half blocks and then that whole section fell apart in a jumble of ugly.

But it feels more like this:

And when you don't have any chocolate in the house, your dog is throwing up in the dining room and you stayed late at your other job three times this week, it feels more like this:
The chaos gives you agita, but you can't leave your poor word-baby in that state. You are far too stubborn for that. So you rebuild.
And parts come out kind of cool, even though you're still a little ticked off about ditching your amazing purple blocks that apparently no one else got why they were there.

You keep building your now new-feeling story that has been all torn apart and re-ordered, while wishing little yellow people in red hats would come and do it for you.

And then it kind of starts to make sense. It doesn't matter which part of it you work on. You don't have to take them in order. You have a vision for the whole.

You might like it. Even if it doesn't have your beloved purple blocks. You really loved those purple blocks. You actually have them hidden away in your computer somewhere. You will see them again. The world will know your purple blocks. But I digress.

Things start to come together in a whole that makes sense.

Before you know it, your word baby is looking pretty buff:

You keep building block by block, taking A LOT of blocks out, keeping some, adding new ones, rearranging all of the blocks in a way that gives form to your whole word-baby. 

Wait, that's a different word-baby.

Anyway, after you bleed from your eyeballs some more, and rearrange, add, and subtract more word blocks, and the little yellow people in red hats help even though you might have imagined that part at 2 a.m., 

your word-baby has transformed into a rocking, fierce collection of words the world needs. 

Now send that baby out into the word-needy world.


  1. I love this analogy! That's kind of how it feels for me too. :)

  2. Great description. Just keep rewriting until it is right and then write again!

  3. Perfect description of the process. I thought it was just me who tore things apart and made a complete mess. Glad to know I'm not alone!

  4. Lovely post and great pictures to go along with it!

  5. Kara,
    When those people in the red hats come to my area, I'd like to have them help me with version 1001. ;) I believe I'm close to a Transformer version.

    Thanks for sharing the journey in such a humorous way. My older son loved Legos and Transformers. Maybe I should embrace them too!


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