At one point, the middle grade that I workshopped this weekend was a chapter book. The story didn’t quite work at that level, so I aged my protagonist by two years and things took off.
It took off but the gait wasn’t quite even. Every once in a while, I’d sense a lurch. This weekend, with the help of agent Jennifer Mattson, I found out why.
When I aged my protagonist, I didn’t age my antagonist. This might not be a big deal in adult fiction, but you can only get away with so much retaliation against a four year old, even an evil four year old. Bingo. Make her 6 or 7 and things start to come together.
I still needed to create a greater sense of urgency. Why was this particular homework assignment so important that having your kid sister ruin it means REVENGE? I knew why. I had it in my head. Not only had I failed to get it on paper, it was complicated. I needed to find a more obvious reason that this assignment was so very important. When I found this reason, I smoothed out a few more of the bumps but it also meant aging my protagonist one more year and my antagonist one more year. When I took these changes to Jennifer, as well as the addition of a new character, she pointed out two characters that I could now combine.
It was fascinating to see how one change effected other story elements and how these changes rippled throughout the piece as a whole. I’ve got a tremendous job ahead of me but I’m looking forward to seeing how all of this comes together.
If you ever get the chance to have a detailed one-on-one critique with Jennifer Mattson, grab it. She encouraged me to look at things I hadn’t focused on and to get more of the information that was in my head down on paper. Her love of world building really paid off for me since this is a fantasy manuscript and it will be a much stronger fantasy when all is said and done. It isn’t going to be a short journey, but this rewrite will definitely be a journey with taking.