Remember early this year when I set out to write my first chap book? I got through it and promised to keep you in the loop. Several weeks ago I sent it on its maiden voyage to two editors. I now have their comments.
One said she liked the setting and I’ve woven in a lot of wonderful aspects of the culture that would fascinate kids. The BUT is that she found the story too literary.
The second BUT came at the end of a note that said the story is super interesting, but it feels very quiet.
I suspect that they both said the same thing. Two BUTs don’t make a wrong, and I’ll send out again, but for now that’s the news from Goose Lake.
Since writing “Chapter One” and a first sentence, it has been an interesting few days. I settled into keeping the chapters short, ranging from 350 to 750 words each, and wrote the first five. I was pleased.
I revised those chapters until they seemed quite presentable. On to chapters six, seven, and eight. So far so good. The outline was working and my notes were there when I needed them.
Then I reread all eight chapters and the words “train wreck” came to mind. For one thing, I’m beginning to wonder if this is really a chap book at all. The subject may be a bit too complicated and mature for a traditional chapter book. And suddenly the beautiful beginning seemed out of place and out of context.
Parts of chapter eight did a better job of introducing the idea. But only parts of it. When I took what worked from that chapter, filled it out a bit more, and placed it in the beginning, the original chapter one didn’t work as a chapter two.
I felt like I was dismantling a train, pulling out box cars and rehooking them in different sections.
That activity is occupying my thoughts this week. There’s probably enough material in those early chapters. I just need to get them strung together in the best positions.
That’s my report.
One other thing. I’m loving the challenge.
On a trip sixteen years ago I wrote a chap book idea in my journal and have carried the thought in my mind ever since. For as long as I’ve been visiting schools I’ve been asked by students if I ever write chap books, those in-betweeners that fall somewhere between early readers and young adult books. My answer has always been no.
I finally decided to stop saying no and consider what it might take to say yes. In reviewing my old journal I reread those early notes and became excited again. The last week or so has been taken with additional research, more note taking, figuring out a plot, naming and knowing my characters, and creating an outline.
Yesterday I believed I was ready. On a fresh page I wrote my name in the header and the page number in the lower right side. At the top of the page I wrote, CHAPTER ONE.
For a time I sat there looking at those two demanding words so full of promise and puzzlement, wondering if I’m really cut out for this sort of thing. Maybe I’m too old to learn new tricks. But I was in my 50s when I started writing poetry. I shrugged and went to the kitchen and returned with more coffee.
Then I wrote the first sentence.