Let’s get started.
Stage One: Getting the Idea
A couple of years ago I had the idea to write an educational text using dialogue only. I also challenged myself to write it with as few words as possible. What would be the theme for the story? At that stage I didn’t have a clue.
I made a list of things children find intriguing, the idea of ‘Secrets’ was on the list.
Then I played around with the idea of children having a conversation about telling secrets.
How about a story of a child sharing a secret with a friend? And then of course, that friend shares the secret with a friend and so on. We all know how hard it is to keep a secret and how easy it is to tell another trusted person. And that’s what ‘Can You Keep a Secret?’ is about. A secret not so well kept.
The first draft of ‘Can You Keep a Secret?’ only used eleven different words. It was (and still is) deliberately highly repetitive to assist children’s early attempts at reading, although now the word count has increased considerably.
Stage Two: Informal Editing
When I was satisfied with the text, I shared it with other writers and teachers I trusted to give me honest and open feedback. I should note here that it is extremely important to get reactions to you stories. It’s all about point of view. Did the story work?
I watched reactions closely during this stage. I was looking for smiles and laughs, comment and to generally get a sense of whether I should pursue with this story.
Stage Three: Changing from Educational Text to Picture Book
The original draft of ‘Can You Keep a Secret’ was designed to be part of a series of stories in a reading scheme. I saw it being taken home from school as a home reader, getting all tatty and grubby from constant use, but being a great little book to assist early attempts at reading.
Then, after much discussion, I decided to publish the story as a picture book. In its original form it was too short for a picture book. This was the first dilemma.
One day, while discussing this with a friend, she said, ‘I’d really like to know what the secret is’. I had no idea!
Stage Four Coming Up With a Secret
This was so difficult.
The secret had to be age appropriate, not nasty or hurtful and it had to be fun related.
Just for fun, think of a secret you could tell someone that fits the above criteria. You’ll see how hard it is.
Finally, after many discarded ideas, I had three possible secrets. Then I wrote three stories to see which one worked best. Oh yes, there had to be endings that the reader wouldn’t see coming!
Again the stories went out to trusted friends to see which one was deemed to be the best. After much ado, the text for ‘Can You Keep a Secret?’ was decided.
I’ll take you on the next part of the journey which includes finding an illustrator, editing and much more. Hope you’re finding the journey enlightening so far.
To be continued in part two. Stay tuned!