The Wind Goes On Holiday
- Fourth Version -
- How To Edit A Children's Picturebook Story -
I hope you've been following the edits I've made to this picturebook story, from the first draft through to this version.If you want to go back, or reach the final version, here are the links to the other pages. I'll also add them to the bottom of this page.
Most authors belong to critique groups, show their work to their friends and ask for feedback, and many pay for editorial services or assessments before submitting to agents or publishers.
The following notes are based on comments I've received on the last version, and I share them with you so that you may consider them and possibly learn too. Most of them I gratefully accept as improvements, but there are one or two places where I'll risk my original version - as you'll see in my actual final version (until I decide it's not final, and change it some more - picturebooks always seem to be able to be improved).
No two writers write in the same style, so it's not surprising that experts and well published authors have different feelings and suggestions. Someone thinks part of the story is just fine, someone else feels a change is needed. In the end it's the author's decision and their voice, but when the person offering advice has jumped all hurdles many times, and has a large number of books to their credit, it's a good idea to very seriously consider their suggestions, all of which have been made to help the story have maximum appeal to publishers.
1. Writing a story where the protagonist is the wind or any element of the weather is a difficult challenge, and one usually best avoided because it's practically impossible to give personality to the character in the same way that you can to a human or an animal. When writing for young people, character development is paramount. (I always do seem to choose difficult things! I hope the illustrator can do a good job with this and help me out!)
2. When Wind returns and promises he'll try to slow down, it's a promise all readers know he'll never keep - Wind is destructive! (Good one! I'll fix that.)
3. The idea of the wind going on holiday could be considered too far fetched. Should we write stories that attempt to make children believe a falsehood? (Hmmm. I can think of plenty of legends and successful books that do that, and many that are 'far fetched' - but it's an interesting topic to debate.)
4. The story starts with Wind in action, then it switches to Sun, back to Wind at the end … but where did Sun go? (I hope all this can be made clear in illustrations - but in writing for small children, you should avoid ditching one character's story to tell that of another and swap back and forth.)
5. There is no explanation as to where Wind goes on holiday. (I'll try to fix that!)
6. In many places the word 'they' is used - meaning the plants, animals and insects. On some occasions it would, in theory, be better to write 'the plants, animals and insects' - but that would obviously be too cumbersome. It would be easier if the characters were restricted only to 'insects', or 'animals', or 'plants' - and no more than three. (I'll cut down the number of characters, if nothing more. Simpler probably is better.)
7. Comments about 'packing Wind's suitcase' have varied from "That's funny!" and "I'll always remember that!" to "You've lost the plot regarding characterisation. The wind cannot pack or unpack a bag - even though this story is a fantasy, this is not in character. Ditch this paragraph." (The good comments outweigh the negative, so I hope I'll find an editor with my vision and sense of humour.) Similarly, the Buttercups making sandwiches is not in character. (I'm happy to lose that, if it's a problem.)
8. There are too many ellipses. (They're the three dots that I use in places where often a comma would be sufficient. It's a habit I've got to try to break!)
The Wind Goes On Holoiday
'Hoooowwwwlll' wailed the Wind as it squeezed between the tree branches. ('Hoooowwwwlll' is not a good way to start. First create the image so that the reader can use the appropriate voice. As Wind is the main character - it's Wind's story - always call him 'Wind' instead of 'the Wind', 'Sun' instead of 'the Sun' etc..)
'BANG' went the doors. (In these next few sentences, speed the action by cutting out the word 'the' infront of doors etc.)
'Rattle, rattle, rattle' went the windows. (Add a third line of sounds for added rhythmic language - and in stories for the young, everything happens in threes.)
No one was happy. The Wind had kept them awake all week with his noises.(This could be illustrated, but who is the 'no one'? So far we have only met doors and windows, which don't sleep. If the buttercups, lizards etc. are meant, if kept, this sentence needs to go in after they have been introduced.)
'Ouch! That hurts! Please slow down,' pleaded the Buttercups. 'You're bending us too far!'
But the Wind wasn't listening.
'You're making it too hard (Replace 'too hard' by 'impossible'.) to cling to the flowers!' gasped the Bees as they were whoosshhhhed up, up and away. (Finish at the word 'Bees'.)
But the Wind still wasn't listening.
'Look what you've done to our homes! Blow away and leave us alone!' yelled the Spiders.
'That was a good place to sit. What did you do that for?' complained the Lizards. (Illustration: Fence being blown away.)
'Rock, rock, splosh, slosh,' went the Waves.
Wind was enjoying training. (Two words together ending in '-ing' is probably best avoided.) 'Now I might be (I ought to be) strong enough to blow tall trees down,' he roared.
'Why don't you blow away to the Windy-lympic Games instead?' wheedled the Grasses. 'If you go now, I'm ('Grasses' is plural, 'I'm' is singular. Consider leaving out this last sentence.) sure you'd get there in time to win lots of medals.'
'No-one could be as strong as you,' marvelled the Flies, 'and when they're (Replace with 'the Games' are.) over you could take a holiday!'
'That's a good idea!' Wind gusted. 'I'll show them (Who does 'them' refer to?) who's strongest and fastest!'
Everyone (Who do you mean?) decided to help him pack his suitcase, just to make sure that he didn't change his mind, and that he would have the best and longest holiday ever. They brought everything they thought he might need:
'Here are some balloons to blow up.' (Who is speaking? It could be provided as an illustration suggestion.)
'You mustn't run out of clean wind-socks.'
'You might need a change of weather-vanes.'
'You should like 'Wind in the Willows''.
'When you want a big, BIG, (This could be considered 'over-writing'.) BIG looooooooooong (Definitely overdone!) blow you can use this trombone.'
…and they (Who is 'they'?) all jumped for joy and waved and cheered as he (Who?) set off. Even the Clams and Oysters joined in by clapping their shells. (How did they know what was happening further inland?)
'Just keep going that way,' crashed the Waves, and Wind soon (Swap 'Wind' and 'soon') completely (Don't need 'completely'.) vanished over the ocean. (Where to?)
'Now we can have a lovely quiet rest!' (Who's speaking?)
(When wind was gone, it…) It was so peaceful in the morning (morning. But) - but it felt strange.
'I don't like being 'flat' and 'calm'!' said the Sea. 'It's not at all exciting.'
'It's pretty boring just looking straight upwards,' (not being able to move - and delete the last sentence) agreed a Buttercup. 'I can't move without the wind.'
'Without the Wind I can't smell which flowers to visit,' said a Bee.
But (meanwhile) the Wind was getting (Use a more descriptive verb.) further and further away. (From where?)
'Is this the way to the Windy-lympic Games?' Wind asked the Seagulls.
'Yes, just keep going!' they screeched, and he did. (they screetched. And so he did.)
'Is this the way to the Windy-lympic Games?' Wind asked the Whales.
'Yes, just keep going!' they wallowed, and he did.
'Oh! Aagh! Ouch!' (Over-writing. Just use one - 'Ouch!') lamented a Lizard, as they ran in every direction. 'We can't stand still for a second on these hot rocks. I wish the cool Wind was here!' (Problems with a mixture of singular and plurals.)
'It's too hot. We need some sea spray blown on us,' groaned the Grasses.
'Wind. Come over here. We need you! - Wind. Where are you?' they (I'ts not clear who is meant by 'they'.) shouted together, to see if he would return.
'Sorry about the heat,' said the Sun, 'but that's my job. I only do heating and lighting. Cooling things down is the wind's job. I'll go (now) and find him on my way round the earth. I've got to go now to shine over everyone on the other side.' ("This last sentence goes without saying - delete it!" says one editor. Another believes it is necessary to say why Sun needs to move around the earth. Hmmm.)
The sun set off. (Not needed.)
He (Sun) travelled over houses.
He travelled over fields.
He travelled over the sea.
He went a long, long way. He went so far the plants and animals (Which plants and animals?) could no longer see him
…and it got dark.
Very, very dark. (Consider 'Before long darkness fell. It was going to be a long wait to see if Sun would bring back Wind.')
It was going to be a long wait to see if the Sun would bring the Wind back.
Everyone (Who?) decided to keep shouting, hoping that the Wind was listening.
(There is a swap here from Sun's story back to Wind's story. This makes it hard for children when viewpoints are changed.)
'How much further to the Windy-lympic Games?' puffed the Wind, when he met Storm.
"You've been tricked!" Storm rumbled. 'There are no such things as the Windy-lympic Games.'
The Wind was crying when the Sun found him. (Better would be: 'When Sun found him, Wind was crying.')
'I should have guessed!' Wind sighed. (sighed Wind) 'They were so pleased to see me go, and now I'm lost, I can't win medals and they were so unkind I won't even have a good holiday. (This is not necessarily so.) The flies told me to 'Get tied in a wind-sock!', and as I left, the Birds sang 'Wind, wind, blow away, come again another day - but not for a long time!' …and the Lizards wrote 'Good riddance!!!' in very large letters in the sand. …And then there were the Clams clapping and … '
'They just didn't like the things you did,' ('…the things you did' is too general.) explained the Sun. 'All that
…and knocking things over -
and you never once thought to say 'I'm sorry'.'
'I thought they were the things I was made to do,' ('I thought I was made to rush, to push, to bump, to sway,') Wind murmured. 'I was training to be good (better) at doing all of those.'
When the Wind stopped crying he could hear (heard) everyone shouting in the distance. It was hard (difficult) to believe they (Who?) all wanted him back again.
He was so pleased that they (Who?) didn't all hate him that he crept back with the Sun.
'Three cheers for the Wind, (Wind. Hip-hip) hip-hip, hooray! Hip-hip, hooray! Hip-hip, hooray!'
'We're sorry we said so many mean things!'
'Sorry I was nasty!'
'I'm sorry too,' the Wind wafted. ('wafted' is a movement, not a replacement for 'said'.) 'I didn't mean to hurt anyone. I promise that from now on I'll try to slow down and be more careful - but blowing is all I can do, you know.'
'It's good to have you back again,' said the Spiders, 'but in future, please whistle when you're coming, so that we can hide."
'I can do that,' replied Wind. 'Why don't you buttercups scatter your seeds near the walls and trees? New plants won't feel me much if they live there.'
'That's a good idea!' they (Who? The walls and the trees are the last mentioned.) nodded. 'Welcome home!'
'Let's have a party!' suggested the Lizards.
The buttercups celebrated by making sandwiches with real butter, instead of margarine. (Out of character.)
Everyone was grinning and laughing again. (They never did this in the first place.)
'We'll help you unpack.' (Who's talking?)
Wind was now happy again too, and replied, 'Being with friends is so much better than being on holiday!' (Wind was now happy too. 'Being with friends is so much better than being on holiday!')
So, how many of those did you pick up?
I've also had the comment that Wind comes across as 'proud, bullying, gullible, and later as weak and tearful'. Does this bother you?
This theme was actually part of the plan as I wrote the story. People who put on a front of being tough, are often 'softies' underneath. I can think of many examples when 'judging a book by its covers' has led to misinterpretation. We do and say things, not realising the damage we are doing. Losing the friendship of people and feeling unloved is certainly acutely painful, and this can happen without realising how we have offended. We all occasionally regret our actions and have to face up to saying 'Sorry!'. Also, I think it's important for children to learn to make compromises - and usually they can be made be done easier than first imagined. And it's always worth celebrating new understandings and friendships strengthened.
I hope children will appreciate the last line, that 'Being amongst friends is so much better than being on holiday'. My friends are far more valuable than fame, fortune, holidays…
It's at the bottom of this list of links: