The best ideas are the ones that change. I just made that up, and I'm not sure if it's true, but it sounds pretty cool. At one time or another, everyone has said, "Huh. That didn't turn out the way I'd planned." But the beauty of it is that eventually it turned out to be something. First, you come up with the idea. Then, you act on it. But after that, it's all up for grabs. Your vision was either achieved, not achieved, or perhaps it changed midway.
My SCBWI conference critiquer, Esther Hershenhorn, packed a mind-boggling amount of critique and encouragement into our 20-minute meeting about my picture book manuscript for Beetle and the Dung Ball. But, the most exciting moment of our session was when she opened my eyes to possibilities for Beetle that I had never even slightly considered. It was a fascinating experience to have a complete stranger dive into my work and unlock a direction in my mind that I didn't know was there. And yet, it was there. It had been there the whole time. Maybe, eventually, I would have discovered it myself. Maybe not. It's why we join critique groups, right? We writers can only see so far past our own noses. Then we turn to our peers (or agents and editors if you're so lucky) for objective analysis.
Esther's thought was this: Sure, Beetle and the Dung Ball could work as a picture book. But it could also work quite well as a sort of Frog and Toad-style collection of stories for young readers. The second she said it, my mind began to race. The possibilities were endless! It sparked a whole new level of excitement for me, and I couldn't wait to get home and create new adventures for Beetle and his friends. New places to explore, new creatures to meet, new problems to solve. And so, over the past month and a half, I have written four additional tales that expand Beetle's world. Each story has its own back matter, while also addressing different emotional journeys for Beetle. From sailing across a pond in a glass bottle, to babysitting three restless baby birds, Beetle is having loads of fun, and so am I.
By giving Beetle new possibilites, I've given myself new possibilities as well. How will this story finally end? I don't know, but I imagine I'll be saying, "Huh. That didn't turn out the way I'd planned." I certainly hope so.
FOLLOW MY MANUSCRIPT!
Chapter 8: Final Draft? Don't bet on it.