I finished a draft of my book the other day. Eleven chapters, 43 pages, 12,000 words. Yay, right?
Almost immediately I felt dissatisfied. It wasn’t working. I couldn’t even complete the final chapter. I was bored by my own book. Who would read it if I didn’t want to?
Let me back up. I’m working on a historical fiction chapter book, a short novel for kids ages 7-10 (or thereabouts). My characters, who I’ve made up, interact with real people from history in a place and time that really existed. Hello, research!
Trouble is, too much of my story involved the characters sitting around talking. Because kids are crazy about My Dinner with Andre.
So the day after I finished, I mapped out the chapters on a whiteboard so I could see where the lulls were, where things got too long or talky, and to get an idea of how to add more action. I did a bunch of research and discovered Kathleen Temean’s blog about writing and illustrating for children, which was hugely helpful. I zeroed in on how to create compelling chapter books and focused on how to build plot structure.
Following Dan Wells’ Seven Points of Story Structure, I altered my story’s focus and timeline to make the action more immediate. What if my characters could take part in a historical event, rather than just hearing about it? I was excited about the idea, but frustrated at the thought of losing so much of what I’d already written.
But that’s the thing about writing, right? Kill your darlings. If I hang onto what’s not working, I’ll never make room for something that will work.
After a few hours, I had a breakthrough and started creating a new outline. Now that is scrawled across my whiteboard, and I think it’s much better. I’m hoping to reuse some of what I’ve already written, but I have a lot of new stuff to fill in, and even more research to do.
So my triumph is not in finishing a draft, but in deciding how I’m going to unravel and reweave what I did. I’m starting over, but I feel much better about where it’s going. And I’m not bored, so hopefully my potential readers won’t be either. Back to writing!
Here’s Dan Wells’ video about the Seven Points–for watching when my fingers won’t type anymore. Part 1 of 5!