Monday, July 20, 2009

PAGE BY PAGE

I didn't wait long for Yuyi's feedback and when I got it I was very excited. Hi Kristen, here are a few comments, very minimal. I think that you should start planning on breaking the text. Based on her comments, I made my revisions and when I was happy with them I was surprised by my subsequent inaction. I sat and sat. I looked at my text. I sat some more. I looked around the house...

This phase was throwing me for a loop. As I stared at my words, each sentence demanded an illustration. After all, I am primarily an illustrator. There are 834 words in my story and approximately 75 sentences. A 75 page picture book was not going to fly. No - I wanted to break my text into 15 illustrations (14 two page spreads and one single page). I decided to ask Yuyi for some tips. Here are a few things she offered to help drive the process:

• Break the text so that it makes the reader want to turn the page to find out more.

• Think of balancing the amount of text on each page spread.

• Think of what makes a different scene every page.

• Think of the different scenes that will develop according to how you break the text.

I printed my text out and began penciling in possible page breaks. It was pretty straight forward, but I wanted a better feeling for it, so I studied some picture books to expose this process even more. I looked at page breaks, observing my feelings at the end of each page. Did I want to turn the page? Did I care? Again this was helpful, but I needed to be more a part of the process. I decided to take "unbroken", published picture book text and see if I could break it down myself. Since I already had the answers - finished picture books - I could then see how close I came.

At this point, I was almost buried in picture books. I chose Stellaluna and The Great Adventures of Wo Ti for my page break experiment because these books are more story-like and have a similar format to the one I am creating. I typed each story into my computer in a big block and printed them out. It was a fun challenge. My page breaks were very close. Stellaluna threw me because I didn't realize it had more pages than a standard picture book until after I divided up the text. Even then I was almost right on. In areas where I missed the mark I was able to study the difference between my version and the published version. It was very enlightening.

This little exercise gave me the insight I needed to return to my own story. Once again I broke down my text while thinking about imagery and getting the reader to turn the page. When that was done I began my storyboard thumbnails.

While doing the thumbnails I discovered areas of emphasis that needed to shift. Sometimes an image seemed too similar to the image just before and I needed to focus attention on a different part of the text for that page. Sometimes I needed to move a line of text to the page before or the page after. All the while it was important to vary the point of view to make the images interesting. Creating a small storyboard is a great way to look at the overall relationships between illustrations. When things looked flat I thought about looking at the scene from a different angle - high, low, side, etc.

So, this time my feedback is going to take a little longer. Yuyi will be gone for a couple weeks. While she is away, I will be working on three other illustrations. I hope to post a finished one soon.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

THE STROKE IS FINE - I WALK THE LINE

In my last post I said I wasn't good at waiting. As it turned out, the alarm bells going off in my head were for good reason. I checked in with Yuyi to see how things were going and she never received my story revisions. She was sitting on the other end wondering what happened to me and if her comments and suggestions made it too difficult for me to keep revising. It took a couple more tries for my revisions to reach Yuyi. Interestingly enough, I had gone to great lengths to make sure my email wouldn't get bounced for looking like spam*. In doing so I probably did myself in.

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After Yuyi got my revisions, I was back to waiting again. So, I worked on a new illustration rough of a Japanese Ocean Spirit for a folktale and started a black and white spot illustration of a wizard's apprentice. I didn't get very far on these new illustrations before I had Yuyi's feedback on my story.

I felt very hopeful that there weren't very many changes to be made. Yuyi said I'd be ready to break the text down for illustrations after I made these revisions...successfully. In a way these were the toughest revisions yet, but I also knew they were the most important. I may make it with this story after all.

Just as there is a fine line between being impatient and knowing that waiting any longer doesn't feel right, there is a fine line between just enough detail and too much. That's what makes it so great to be getting feedback in this program. Often in editing, it takes only a slight change in perception to make things just right. It's easy to overshoot the mark.

Overall, I needed to be more specific in a few areas. In one part, my main character needed some guidance from her grandfather before she could continue on to a conversation with a water spirit. Originally the text moved on, but the lack of guidance was distracting, leaving the reader wondering what just happened. It was a mini dead-end.

In the next scene, the water spirit was a bit verbose and I actually got to cut out a sentence of dialogue! That was easy. Another simple shift followed that one. I needed to change the word "near" to one that expressed exactly how close my main character was to the angry Great Serpent as she approached on the back of a turtle.

The last revisions weren't as easy. I had to define an abstract concept in words that kids could relate to. You know what it's like when a kid asks you what a word means and you struggle to define it without using the word they were asking you to define? That's what I was dealing with. I could feel the meaning right on the tip of my tongue, but I was tongue-tied. I sat with the feeling of the definition for a while, looked at it upside down and inside out. I made many free-form attempts at defining it to get ideas flowing. I'm not sure if I've done it, but I'm hoping I'm close enough to begin breaking the text down.

In the meantime, I'll continue working on the illustrations that I started. I bet I don't get far before I get my next feedback!

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*In my business I correspond with a lot of people through email. People sign up to get my newsletters and there is a lot of back and forth between myself and clients. For newsletters and lengthy correspondence, I check the content of my email to make sure it doesn't look like spam to email filters. There are key things to check for and sometimes I run it through a spam check. Here's one that I use - http://spamcheck.sitesell.com/ It points out problem areas and gives suggestions for ways to fix them. Ironically, it wasn't working when I was sending my revisions off to Yuyi!