It occurred to me that people might be interested in the process I use to write these childrens’ stories, which are very different to writing either stories or novels for adults. In the first of this mini-series, I introduced you to Henry. The second talked about the inspiration for the stories. Now I’d like to talk about getting the structure and mechanics of the story right.
I know the bones, by now; the story needs to be somewhere around the 3,000 word mark, with a reasonably classic story arc – set-up; crisis; committment; mid-point; action; result; close-down. Generally, I’ll want a scene break or two in there at or around some of those points, so I can skip boring bits of time and move the action on. However, there is one huge, looming problem, that I have to bear in mind right at the start.
These stories are aimed at an independent but not very confident reader. Ideally, I’d like to stick to the frequently-used word list for the UK Key Stage 2 – readers up to age 10. However, this list is appallingly short and narrow in scope. I don’t think either “football” or “boots” are on it, from memory – let alone “elephant”! So, I have to keep the words to ones that can be easily sounded out, or worked out from context.
However, I refuse to dumb down the story!
So, the process generally goes;
– write the first draft, often on paper, getting the feel for the story. (Start talking to my elder daughter about the art work. She’s a brilliant artist, and I love what she’s done / is doing with the Henry covers.)
– edited for story flow.
– put into wordle and edited for word overuse. Wordle is a seriously useful tool!
– read out loud – for story flow and rythm.
– Given to my younger daughter to read, as lead beta reader – she’s severely dyslexic; if she can cope – and enjoys the story – it’s on the right lines. Pass the story out to other beta readers. Give Elder Daughter a deadline date for the artwork.
– Final edit & polish.
– Fight my way through the compiling jungle, and publish the story as an e-book and as part of a paperwork bundle.
I remembered to look at the stats that Word gives me, when I’d finished Henry and the Viking – apparently I took 10,111 minutes to write it! I feel a bit binary about that 😀 But that’s not far off, I guess; 160 hours or so, 20 working days, call it about 3 months elapsed time given that I write these on a very part-time basis, hours stolen from the day job and my historical novels.
The first three Henry stories have been available for some time, either as a bundled paperback, or as individual electronic stories. The next three are due for imminent release, with three more planned early in 2015.
The stories are:
Henry and the Necklace – In which Henry meets a surprisingly large elephant.
Henry and the Magic Teapot – Henry tries to give his Nan a present – but she is not happy with the results!
Henry and the Football Boots – Henry has to choose between being brilliant at football, or hurting his friend.
Henry and the Viking – a trip to the museum has some interesting consequences.
Henry and the Dinosaur – Henry’s brother Mike creates a big problem!
Henry and the Bird Bath – Henry swears never to try karate again…
As a bonus, I’m recording Henry and the Football Boots, and will be giving that away during the next release.
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