Thursday, June 18, 2009


I'm not especially good at waiting. As much as I try to stay busy, I eventually drift back to my email to check it "one more time" or look in my records to make sure I sent my original email to the right address. Here's a little bit of what I've been doing while waiting for feedback on my revisions.  
After I sent my revisions off last time, I set to work looking for a fully written fairy tale in case my story was still too far off the mark. As a place to start, I made a list of my favorite tales from childhood. Some seemed like they would be fun to illustrate and others didn't. Some of my favorites are Rapunzel, Beauty and the Beast, and Rumpelstiltskin.
There are a myriad of versions for each story. I wanted one that was already in the public domain so I didn't have to worry about copyright. One of the best resources I found was SurLaLuneFairytales. This site has a lot of information, including history and similar tales from different cultures. I was even reminded of stories I had forgotten about. It was like traveling to a far away land.
All of the original tales were very long, so I picked the one I liked best and challenged myself to an editing marathon. Could I edit away more than 4000 words and still have something that made sense?
I started by whittling away at extraneous language. That was easy - there was a lot of that. I even caught myself thinking it wasn't going to be as hard as I thought. After doing a word count, however, I discovered I had a long way to go.
My next plan of attack was to take out events that just weren't relevant to the progression or solution of the story. That wasn't so bad, although there were some scenes that I was quite attached to because of the cleverness of them. Beware of cleverness that has no other purpose! I decided that these ideas could become interesting details in the illustrations. 
With each round of editing, the hill I was going up became steeper. I had only managed to take off 2000 words and it seemed impossible to take off any more. I kept going. It was actually becoming difficult to put it away. 
That night my daughter had a sleepover and I was determined to get those last stubborn 2000 words off. While she was occupied and giggling away, I kept whittling. After each edit I read through to make sure the story was still making sense. Sometimes words I edited away had to come back.
Then at 1036 words I was at a standstill. It seemed impossible. I knew for my purposes, as a framework for illustrations, this total was fine, but there was something in me that was determined to get the total below 1000 - so I kept going. I became even more focused on simplifying sentences and condensing many words into one.
In the end the fairy tale went from 4991 words to 967. Still a bit lengthy, but I'm happy with it. The process was extremely gratifying. I have always enjoyed editing, but this exercise took it to a new level. I can't wait to do another one. For now, while I wait, I will turn back to illustration. I have a couple illustrations to explore and some characters to develop through sketches. I have spent too long away from my drawing board and I'm looking forward to getting back.
Stay tuned. If you have trouble waiting, I know a great way to pass the time...

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