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The Curse of Jasper Rust

For the last two years I have been involved with the gifted and talented writers at my local primary school, mentoring them through the plotting, writing and editing of a chapter book. Last year I shadowed another fabulous local author, Tony Davis, who had been responsible for pulling the programme together with the school four years ago.

This is last years book: The Disappearance of Jasper Rust

jasper-rust-book-3

This year I took the reigns. It has been an amazing experience, from the first full day workshop, through to the final edits. I have been so lucky to have had a team of exceptionally gifted writers, who soaked up everything I taught during the workshop session and delivered it so beautifully throughout the term as we plotted and wrote the 6 chapter, 8,000 word book.

The character Jasper Rust was a legacy from the previous three years, and the title ‘The Curse of Jasper Rust’ was our starting point. We took our time to map out a thorough plot and workshop our main characters and then each of the six students were assigned a chapter. This year we wrote the book chronologically, so our Chapter One writer had a week to write her chapter, then our Chapter Two writer had his week, and so followed through to Chapter Six.

As the chapters took shape I provided feedback and the writers edited their chapters against this and against the changes that came about because of what was written in the previous or subsequent chapters. The children’s ability to take on board the feedback and make the necessary changes to their chapters was inspiring.

We also developed ‘hit squads’ I had a ‘Hamish and Andy’ duo, who had shown a natural ability to write humour into their chapters, so they worked through the other chapters adding hints of their comedy brilliance. I also had character and setting teams who were able to embellish the story with detail, all the while helping to move the plot forward.

Writing in this form is all about re-writing and it is so far removed from a piece of homework that you write once and hand in. They had to go back over their 1,000+ word chapters between 8 and 10 times to get it to mesh seamlessly with the rest of the book. They also had to willingly let others tweak their work. Throughout this whole process the group was amazing, dedicated and flexible. I am so proud of each and every one of them and can’t wait for the launch of book four, pencilled for the 22nd November.

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How Audio Books have improved my self-editing

I find School holidays leave very little time for writing. However as we approached this six week long break I committed myself to as much reading as possible. And I discovered the wonder of audio books. What is so brilliant about audio books is that you can watch the kids on the beach whilst listening to a story. You can iron, fold washing and even make dinner whilst listening to a story. So I probably doubled my book consumption by way of audio books.

Having just completed the Editing Essentials course with Faber Writing Academy I was ‘deep reading’ and critically evaluating everything that I read, or listened to. And a brilliant thing happened. I always read my work aloud, but having listened to audio books I have developed a much stronger ear for when the rhythm and pace are working, or not, and when the dialogue feels authentic, or not. I feel that it has greatly improved my ability to asses my own writing.

So I am now an official advocate of the audio book. Not only does it double your reading time, it also improves your writing (Well mine at least :)) Just don’t all jump on board at once, audio books via the library are very limited and the best books have quite a wait time.