aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,

How do you eat an elephant

My senior year in college, the head of the business department was one of my professors. He seemed ancient to me, an idea underscored by the fact that he had recently had a stroke that garbled his speech. I remember someone asking him once to repeat a certain word, which none of us could understand. Finally he said he would write it on the board. Only the stroke had affected his right hand. We couldn't read what he scrawled on the board either.

Plus he drooled.

I should have been more sympathetic. I don't think I was.

This professor was also given to repeating everything twice. I remember him saying, 'How do you eat an elephant?' Meaningful pause while he slowly surveyed all of us. 'How do you eat an elephant?' Another pause. 'One bite at a time.' Pause. 'One bite at a time.'

I definitely have an elephant on my plate now. The editor for my new young adult, the one who wants it all re-written in a different POV plus some cuts and some new scenes added, said I had 'plenty of time.' By which he meant July 1. I work full time and we have a 10-year old.

So, by July 1, I need to:
* Completely rewrite my young adult novel.
* Revamp a chapter book by changing POV.
* Read and review Jennifer Egan's The Keep for the Oregonian (something I would be looking forward to with more enthusiasm if it didn't seem to be getting sucky pre-pub reviews – but as an author I should know that pre-pub reviews aren't necessarily to be trusted.)
* Write a 1,000-word essay for the Oregonian about the real pros and cons of being a writer.
* Keep my fingers crossed that a writing magazine I queried doesn't take me up on an article idea (or at least doesn't do it right away).

So, how do you eat an elephant?

I'm starting with the chapter book. It's only 13,000 words, for one thing. In moving from first to third, I need to decide if I will have any other POV characters than my main one, Amanda. Will the third person be as impersonal as a camera or as close as first person, only with 'she' substituted for 'I'? This is a book I've long struggled with the voice. If you look at books like those featuring Junie B. Jones or Amber Brown, the characters have eccentric, unique, and opinionated voices. I wasn't quite capturing that. Now, with third person, maybe some of that pressure will be off. I could even explore other kids' points of view. I'm realizing that what might have been missing in first person was descriptions of the other kids, so I'll add more of that.

I have changed POV in midstream or later before. One book was nearly done when the idea of first person began singing its siren song. When I finally tried it, the character began to talk to me. Or through me. Or whatever it is that characters do.

I'm hoping I can revamp the chapter book quickly, maybe over an intense weekend. And then it will be on to the YA, which will be much harder. I'll need to listen for Ellie's voice in a much more intimate way. I hope that she will start talking to me.

How do you eat an elephant?

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Tags: pov, revamp
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