Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I've often noticed that sometimes seemingly big problems in a manuscript are the easiest to fix, while seemingly minor problems are the hardest to fix. For example, changing the whole theme of the book, its lasting impact on the reader, can sometimes be accomplished by tweaking a single paragraph focusing on the protagonist's epiphany moment. Whereas fixing a small glitch in the book's timeline can involve extensive rewriting and reorganization.

When I was writing Lizzie at Last, I had a couple of football game scenes. Like my younger self, Lizzie hates football, but also like my younger self, she gets lured into attending a few games as part of her project to become more popular. When I wrote the first draft, I had the games take place on Saturday afternoons, like high school football games in my youth. But then I found out that nowadays high school football games are played on Friday nights. Massive rewrite! All these scenes that were to have after other scenes now came before them - horrible!

Right now I'm working on Mason Dixon: Basketball Disasters. The action of the book begins in November, as Mason begins his first-ever doomed basketball season. But well into writing the book, I remembered, oh, I'll have to deal with Thanksgiving! Maybe even with Christmas! I didn't want to deal with these holidays, but I also can't just pretend they didn't happen in Mason's life. Holidays are important.

I studied the local YMCA basketball schedule and saw that I can finish Mason's season before Christmas, if the first game is on November 6 and the last game is on December 18. Whew! But I still have to account for Thanksgiving somehow. And I wanted the book to begin with the start of the new trimester at school - but perhaps now, it should be the start of the new quarter, if I'm shifting the basketball season earlier to finish before winter break? The kids were studying the age of exploration in social studies in the previous book - can they now be on to colonial times? Oh, arranging the calendar for a book is a huge and complex jigsaw puzzle.

Sometimes, though, the challenges of arranging a book's calendar can bring with them unexpected delights. In this current book, I knew that Mason was going to have to have a climactic moment in his war with next-door neighbor Mrs. Taylor, who doesn't like dogs, and seems to be persecuting Mason's beloved dog, Dog. Mason has just behaved badly to Mrs. Taylor, though not without justification. Mason's mother is going to make him apologize. Not with a nice note written in his best cursive, but in person. Where and how should the apology scene take place?

Hey, what if Mason's kind-hearted mother invites lonely Mrs. Taylor to Thanksgiving at Mason's house?! Ooh! That could work! It really could!

But I'm still glad that in this book I don't have to write about Christmas.

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