Thursday, September 9, 2010

Enough Disasters?

The county where I live, Boulder County, is now experiencing the devastation of the worst forest fire in Colorado history; everyone I know, including me, knows someone who has lost a home, burned to the ground. So there are disasters aplenty right now in my corner of the world.

However, my editor at Knopf/Random House told me that she thought there weren't quite enough disasters in my second book in the Mason Dixon series, Mason Dixon: Fourth Grade Disasters - not enough disasters to warrant such a disaster-advertising title.

Now, I did NOT want to change this title. I think it's catchy and kid-pleasing.

What I did want to do was point out to her, hey, there are LOTS of disasters in this book! And start itemizing them all in case she had forgotten any, despite her having given the manuscript two careful readings. I stopped myself just in time. For the author truly cannot accompany every reader of the book to point out disasters the reader might otherwise have missed, or hand out printed lists of the disasters for easy reference.

Hmm. What to do....

I decided that the best thing to do, short of rewriting the book entirely to up its disaster quotient, was to make more of the disasters I already have. After all, none of these are disasters in the Four Mile Fire sense. What they are is disasters to Mason, to this particular fourth grade kid. If Mason feels the disasters more, feels them AS disasters, readers will feel them more, too.

So I've been revising like a fiend, and I just sent off the revised manuscript an hour ago, luxuriating in Mason's now-heightened dread and misery.

Disasters can be in the eye of the beholder. That is to say, of the character. And then, I hope, of the reader.

1 comment:

  1. I'm sure Mason Dixon's disasters will resonate with 4th graders. I remember how so many things loomed large in my mind when I was in 4th grade, how burdened I could be by very small things. Good for you, Claudia, for remembering those moments as they were.