Story doctor course

Just like the proverbial iceberg, fiction manuscripts can sometimes show only the surface problems. And that’s why I went to Sydney last weekend for Kate Forsyth’s Story Doctor writing course.

Kate is the writer of over forty books for children and adults. My kids loved her Impossible Quest series and I love her historical novels, particularly The beast’s garden and Bitter greens.

I’ve been to two of Kate’s courses before, both in Sydney, so I knew that Kate would help me understand exactly what I need to do to look at my children’s novel with fresh eyes.

Kate taught us to look beneath the surface of our manuscript and check for common structural mistakes. We went through structure and chapter openings and closings, voice, point of view, narrative distance … yes, all in six hours!

I could take what Kate taught in six hours and spend six years applying it to my writing!

But instead, I’ve spent a few hours every day this week – after my paid editing work – taking Kate’s suggestions and working it into my manuscript. I’ve deleted one chapter entirely and dispersed another chapter throughout my book. I’ve given one chapter which had been bugging me for ages higher stakes. I’ve added a few lines here and there to help the reader connect more with my protagonist.

My structure is tight now – nothing is superfluous, everything is working hard to contribute to the narrative arc of the story. I’ve examined my iceberg from both above and below the surface.

I’m back in Sydney this weekend for the final part of the Story Doctor course – time to focus on polishing my language. I’m also going to the SCBWI conference – a chance to learn writing techniques in workshops and listen to publisher panels.

Family meals have been a bit skimpy this week – bolognaise from the freezer, baked potatoes etc. I suspect next week might be similar …

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