I'm not ashamed to admit I'm (exceptionally) slightly chicken. I've been talking about starting a middle grade project since the summer, but I only recently got plucky enough to begin. That sounds braver than the reality - actually my local critique group set a dare goal to bring a novel project this month, so I had no choice.
So here I am, four weeks into this bad boy, and I'm ready to talk about the "picture books are harder to write than novels" soundbite.
A picture book is 500 words. But you change about 492 of those words eight times each before you have a final manuscript. So let's call that writing about 4,000 words to get 500 good ones.
When I write a few hundred words of a novel, probably 90% of that writing is good. But I have to do that, oh, 100 times. That's like writing 100 (really crappy in desperate need of editing) picture books!
I think it goes without saying I'm scared to Poopytown with the idea of writing 30,000 words.
What's your mama say when you have a big intimidating project? Tackle it in bite-sized tasks.
Hey there little bubbles! You don't look
intimidating at all. Just sweet little bubbley-boos! photo by lfelton via sxc.hu
So I've been breaking the work down into "thought bubbles." I define a thought bubble as 300 words or a couple paragraphs that encompasses a thought. A scene. A story element. A moment.
The moment of terror when you see a love note from your Mom in your lunch (uncool mom.) The feeling of knowing your neighbor's German Shepherds are licking their chops because they smell you peeing yourself. The internal conflict of panic that you just ripped your pants off on a fence versus the joy of knowing your pee stain is history.
I just have to write 100 of those bubbles and stitch 'em together. And pray they cohesively come together in a story.
I suppose if you want to be Mr. Fancyfeathers you could assign yourself a bigger chunk, like a chapter, but I'm just a baby chicken here. I need tiny bites from a pink baby spoon circling at me like the Red Baron flying a plane, or (if you prefer a consistent metaphor), I need my worms regurgitated in manageable gulps.
I can't say this is a good professional method, but it's effective if you are a chicken like me. Those of you who have written those big bad manuscripts- how did you tackle the effort?