Thursday, June 18, 2009

WORD WHITTLING




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.  

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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...




Monday, June 8, 2009

ADJUSTING THE VOLUME

I've taken notice of the fact that time is going very quickly. Long work days are adding to that. If you're used to seeing me around town - you're not seeing me these days! You may have noticed that I extended the contribution deadline. The first 20% of the total was of timely importance because fees were due for the Mentor Program. The next 5% paid for travel and lodging for the first meeting. The rest of the total can trickle in over the course of the program. Thanks to contributions I have been able to purchase the first round of supplies for illustrations. Continued contributions will help me concentrate my time in the Mentor Program with less of those 14 hour day/7 day weeks fitting in clients and program work. My family and I appreciate that greatly. Total contributions as of June 8, 2009 are $1235. I'm so happy to share my work with everyone in this way.

It's not too late to get some great art and help me in my journey. Purchases from Faery Medicine in any amount help as well.
Thank you!
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After I sent my latest revisions to Yuyi, I decided to look for a fairytale that is already written so I have a backup in case my story is too far from being illustration worthy. I originally set out to do that, but I went for a folktale that needed more depth. I will continue to work on the story I'm writing because I'm enjoying it, but my main objective is to finesse my portfolio for children's publishing.

Last week Yuyi sent me her comments on my revisions. Straightforward feedback is something I appreciate a great deal. I have been in critique groups where feedback is watered down for fear of hurting feelings and I have no time for that. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate good etiquette in critiquing, but I'm here to take my work to the next level and there isn't room to take things personally. When Yuyi points out an area in my story that's weak - I'm going to run with it.

Yuyi highlighted the elements in my story that held promise. It starts out pretty well, but it peters out along the way and there are some weak solutions. I needed to turn up the volume on my story ingredients. Once again I wasn't sure how or if I was going to be able to do that. Every time I send my revisions off I think I've got it. That's why Yuyi's experience is so important. She notes where I don't quite have it yet. When I get her feedback I go inside my head and look at everything from varying angles. I remind myself that I know what I'm trying to say, but someone who doesn't know my intentions has to get it right away also. I read things out loud a lot.

I would say that in all my work over the years as an illustrator, most times I am initially stumped for solutions when I get revisions from my clients. Collaboration with clients is a valuable catalyst for expanding my horizons and I love the challenge of looking at things from different angles while still being true to my vision.

Will I have the same experience in writing? I hope so. I sent my latest batch of revisions to Yuyi a couple days ago. In the meantime I will continue looking through fairytale ideas. I grew up loving Grimm fairytales, so that may be where I end up. If you have a favorite fairytale suggestion, let me know.

Signing off for now.