Winding down on study

The Aramis Gothboi project: writing a children’s book

progress journal
DRAFT: 01 | word count: 35,262

Journal entry 27:

These little entries seem to be monthly now. Okay, that’s fine, I guess. But oh, how the time flies when you’re pushing to complete the program. How’s that? Well, the major component of my final uni subject has been completed: 5,000 words of polished material from the manuscript.

As stated in the brief I was given, Chapter 1 was always going to be a part of those 5,000 words—the rest would be made up by excerpts of my own choosing. Ideally, these excerpts would demonstrate the breadth of my writing.

My first excerpt choice was easy: Chapter 5. I’d recently reworked this chapter and run it through the writer’s group to give it the old clean-up. That was a little bit of an ordeal. Interestingly, I felt so damaged by the feedback that I had a crisis of confidence and it temporarily killed my progress on the manuscript. Every little correction or suggestion was yet another knife in the back from my cohorts. I felt like I’d worked so hard applying all the things I had learnt over the semester to this piece that it had to be near perfect. Of course it was not, and I was only able to see that once I’d licked my wounds clean and pulled myself back together again.

Reviewing that feedback, it became clear how much my cohort were correct (because they are amazing!) and what needed to be done, so I set to work on patching it up, and it was only then when the chapter actually began to sing. What I now had on the page was so much better than anything I could have achieved on my own and it became my first chapter that I actually felt was complete (for this drafting phase anyway).

So, then it was back to Chapter 1 to ensure I did the same thing. To my own detriment I didn’t have the time to put it through the same feedback process. After a pass or two with my own editing eyes, I realised that no matter how much I cleaned it up, I would still need another 1,000 words to make up the wordcount—so I chose Chapter 15 for that final excerpt.

Reasons for my excerpt choices:

  • Chapter 1 compulsory, but also introduced my characters and demonstrated my ability to write action.
  • Chapter 5 explored relationship dynamics and conflict.
  • Chapter 15 would let me flex using supernatural elements and also demonstrate how I balance the scary stuff with humour.

Good plan. Solid plan. Foolproof most wonderful plan. The problem, however, was that Chapter 15 was so undercooked that by the time it came to choosing an excerpt from it, I became acutely aware that there was far too much to be written to get it up to scratch. What ended up happening was that a short scene prior to the main action (where the ghosts show up) blew out with character development and grew into its own chapter – and three time longer than what I had for the still-too-undercooked ghost scene.

I was running out of time too. I should not have been writing at this stage – I should only have been editing and refining, so I had to make a decision and took an excerpt from that new chapter instead. It did not feature the supernatural elements but it did allow me to explore the Worm Boys (especially Noodel) and their reactions to Jo’s dragging them into this adventure.

The new chapter ended up being a pretty heavy scene – poor Noodel had gone through so much over the previous week – but I was able to play and get the humour in there to balance out the dirge of Noodel’s breaking point. I gave it some shape, which resulted in a neat little emotional arc for Noodel that fed nicely into the following sequence. I suppose for that, it ended up being a good excerpt – even if it wasn’t what I had intended to hand in.

From there I returned to chapter 1, which still needed work. I had the mental tug-of-war between what I felt was right and what I knew would be asked of me from my teacher. I think I ended up rewriting it three times as I tried to figure out which way to go before reaching the conclusion that it did everything it was supposed to (and would satisfy the both of us). Cannot wait to see the feedback for that one – the whole assignment, actually. That’s the reason I’m doing this anyway. To get that nod of approval that lets me know I’m progressing. I guess I still get a little peacock proud though, and want it to be perfect the first time – even when I know it won’t be. We’ll just have to wait and see.

So the final component of the course is pitching the manuscript to a publisher. I Had a practice run today. It went okay with a few notes given suggesting I add a little more detail on a few points. I enjoy the performance aspect, but I always forget just how nervous I get when I do these things. It’s almost ready to go now. 400 or so words or so that I’ll do well to remember before next week. But again, it’s not the be all and end all – well… it’s the end of the course, but you know what I mean. It’s just a test.

There’s a bit more tweaking to do and I honestly believe that if I do manage to do this from memory, the natural energy from performing may very well give it what I think is missing. That will be next week. Stay tuned, I’ll let you know how it goes.

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