Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Welcome to the Booby Hatch

I'm a Picture Book Illustrator but this past Spring a story began to form in my brain (sounds painful right and it was:)
I began by sketching it out in storyboard fashion. I thought I had a vision of how the story would go, how many pages it might take to tell it, the type of art (sketchy b/w) I would need, the limited wording I wanted to use.
Well, after a while I realized I had far too many sketches for any pic book I have ever seen. I stopped, thinking perhaps it best to put down the words on paper that were going through my head as I drew.
That made it worse, because my vision for the book was completely thrown by the amount of writing I was doing. This was NOT what I had planned. It was suppose to be simple, few words, perhaps a speech bubble here and there, thought bubbles for the dog character. Now, words were flowing to match the number of images and I found myself panicking.
Now, I really don't know what I have here. Is it the quirky sort of pic book I had planned, no. Is it a story book, no. Is it a graphic novel, maybe but how do I tell. Is it a mid grade novel, can't be, I'm not a writer!!!
This is the time for a good critique group.  They will help you sort out which things are working best about the project, and you'll be in a better place to decide its shape from there.
How do writers sort this out and is it normal or at least common for a writer to begin a work and then have it take over? Do Authors always know what sort of manuscript they will end up with or is it sometimes a surprise even to them?
Of course it's a surprise sometimes.  These are creative endeavors; they are supposed to have some life of their own.

Lastly, when the story starts talking back to you and you to the story, is it time for the jacket and wagon?
If that's your definition of crazy, every SCBWI conference is a looney bin.  You have a LOT of company.


Josin L. McQuein said...

Meh. Don't worry until your story starts arguing back at you from the page - and winning.

When you can't win an argument with a talking dog you created, then you can question your sanity. (Or just bribe it with a sprinkle covered doggie biscuit. It works more often than I care to admit.)

Ishta Mercurio said...

I've had moments where the writing took over, but then again, I think there's some merit to developing the skill of being able to shape a story into a format. So if you want it to be a picture book, find the places to cut in order to make it what you want it to be. If you think it should be a chapter book, craft it that way. Write it both ways, and see what works best for the story you want to tell.

Heidi said...

Perfect closing remark, Ed Anon. Made me laugh. Maybe, along with pencils and coffee mugs, SCBWI should pass out logoed straight jackets at conferences.

Meg said...

Of course the work takes over! If we wrote just what we planned it would be incredibly boring.

Deirdre Mundy said...

I always lose arguments with my characters. Because, when they take the time to put up that big a fight, they're usually right... and it's easier just to go along with them then to force them to be someone they're not....

Liesl Shurtliff said...

I am convinced that most if not all writers are mildly crazy. And they all embrace the crazies like an alcoholic clings to his beer.

Christina Rodriguez said...

The craziness is part of our charm (Minnesota SCBWI Illustrator Coordinator here).

The Storylady said...

I always envisioned my idea as a picture book. I knew exactly what it would look like. After many rejections, I thought maybe I should submit it as a short story collection. Still rejected. Finally I got some good advice from an editor at a SCBWI local summer picnic. She told me to submit it to educational publishers. I did, and it's coming out with Scholastic this summer.

Moral to the story: be flexible!

Simon said...

I had a (teacher) friend who had once started a three-page writing exercise . . . by the time she had finished, the work had blossomed into a 36-chapter middle-grade novel. These things happen.

ElizaW said...

Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret straddles the line between graphic novel and MG novel. It's worth reading.

Carin Bramsen said...

EA's advice sounds like a good idea. I'll add this from my own experience: don't panic! There's no need.

It sounds like you're growing creatively - that involves a lot of unknowns, which can feel overwhelming. But don't forget that this is your first attempt at writing a story. If you're anything like most writers, you'll produce a lot of unusable stuff before you get to something that works. Have patience with yourself - you can enjoy the play of words and thoughts, even when they don't lead to something you want to share with the world.

By all means, educate your inner critic on the writer's craft, but don't let him/her then squelch you with worry. Best of luck!

Shari Dash Greenspan said...

Uri Shulevitz's book "Writing with Pictures" might be a great resource for you. Good luck.

Christine Tripp said...

Thanks EA! I really was under the impression that Authors were at all times in control of their story. I love that I'm not the only crazy and in such great LOONIE company!
I'll definitely take everyone's advice. Whether this idea/manuscript/GN straightens itself out or ends up at the bottom of a drawer, it continues to be completely frustrating, great fun and a learning experience.

working illustrator said...

Ruth McNally Barshaw's books are also worth a look to get a different take on how pictures can be used in a longer-form text.

I think the sense of vertigo this person is experiencing is natural; I think the sense of panic would be turned to pleasure with a broader sense of the book landscape.

There's a lot of stuff out there that isn't cookie-cutter in its form. The more of it you know, the less likely you are to be freaked out when your project takes a hard turn off the paved road and heads out over open fields.

Christine Tripp said...

Working Illustrator, so glad you brought up Ruth's books!!! I know Ruth well and had completely forgot about using her work as an inspiration, thank you.

Christine Tripp said...

Working Illustrator, I know Ruth well from our cartooning days and had never thought to look to her amazing books for inspiration, thank you.

I hope I have not repeated myself but got a message from "blogger" that an error had occurred in my first post.

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