Jody Feldman: Class of 2k8

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Today begins a year-long series about those intrepid newcomers, The Class of 2k8. To help marketing efforts for debut novelists, these 28 novelists have banded together to create a group marketing effort. I’m thrilled that three authors in this group have taken my novel revision retreat; two of them sold the novel they brought to the retreat, Kristin Tubb and Jenny Meyerhoff.
I’ll feature some of them here this year, as they talk about their Revision Stories or The Office Studios.

Jody Feldman Cuts Straight to the Action

The Gollywhopper Gamesgollywhopper games, Greenwillow Press

When my agent fielded the offer on The Gollywhopper Games, the editor told her I would need to make some substantial changes. Was the author capable of that? Yes, my agent assured her, then called to give me all The News. Although I was beyond elated, those dreaded words, Substantial Changes, shot into my every extremity.

Other people knew how to make Substantial Changes. Real writers. Not me.

Even so, my editor mailed me a preliminary revision letter. My main task, cut the first 50 pages nearly in half. Slash. Burn. Yet still retain the necessary backstory and the detailed information to set up the guts of the book.

Other people knew how to do that. Real writers. Not me.

After I hyperventilated (not really) and woke up several mornings with hives (really), I decided, instead, to embrace what I knew about the process:

  • Trust those who know.
    I’m not saying you need to agree with everything editors or more seasoned writers say, but you should at least consider why they are giving you specific advice. My editor was right. Kids would want to get into the main action and not be bogged down by every detail. At more than one point she said something to the effect, “YOU needed to know this. Do your readers?” My first answer? Yes, they did need to know. The truth? Nope. Several scenes, gone.
  • You don’t need to swallow everything in one gulp.
    Along with Substantial Changes were those far less intimidating. While I mulled over the huge ones, I tackled others I could fix in minutes. Can he be funnier here? Would she really say that? Because I gained confidence doing the little things. I broke Substantial Changes into bite-sized pieces. I took just one scene, at first, to see how I could add layers to a character. On the next pass of that scene, I conquered pacing. The next, heightened sensory details. And, in the end, I rewarded myself by entering my comfort zone: line editing.
  • What you’ve written isn’t fact.
    You may have read your story so many times you begin to believe the words on paper represent the honest, unadulterated truth. Reality? Those words are your imagination in black and white. I had to remember my own imagination still had life when my editor wanted me to add some action into a chapter that had remained nearly unchanged through many drafts. I can’t, I thought, that’s not the way it happened. But I shook that feeling and opened my mind to a new scene that had never before existed. (And honestly, at the point where I was trying to cut 25 pages and needed to add a scene? It felt like someone told me to lose 25 pounds by drinking malted milks.) With that new scene, however, not only did I pick up the pace, but I added two very minor characters who helped illustrate some backstory in far fewer words and in a far more interesting way than I had done elsewhere. Many more words deleted.

It took several back-and-forths with the Greenwillow editorial team until I became one of those Other People with an editor-approved revision behind me. The hives eventually whimpered away, and my middle grade novel, The Gollywhopper Gamesgollywhopper games is due in stores on March 4, new scenes and all.

About the book:

In the beginning, there are 25,000 contestants; in the end, just five. Does Gil Goodson have what it takes to win The Gollywhopper Games? Do you?
The Gollywhopper Games has just been named a Spring 2008 BookSense Pick.

About the author:

Jody Feldman has played around with games, puzzles and brainteasers for as long as she can remember. Sometimes, she even thinks of revision process as a giant puzzle. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri. Visit her website at www.jodyfeldman.com or play some games at www.gollywhoppergames.com .

2k8 Stories

Look for these other 2k8 Stories:

March: Jody Feldman
April: Zu Vincent
April: M.P. Barker
May: Sarah Prineas
June: Daphne Grab
July: N.A. Nelson
August: Laurel Snyder
September: Nancy Viau
October: Ellen Booraem
October: P.J. Hoover
October: Courtney Sheinmel

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6 Comments
  • M.P. Barker
    March 5, 2008

    Boy, does this ever sound familiar! I know exactly what Jody means about the story seeming like fact by the time you’re done with it–and about the adding-scenes-when-you’re-supposed-to-be-cutting dilemma. Good advice, Jody!

    Thanks, Darcy, for spotlighting us 2k8ers!

    Michele

  • Barrie Summy
    March 5, 2008

    Ah, yes…the dreaded revision letter. :)

    Makes me feel good to read I had a similar reaction as you. Although I think I leaned more toward hyperventilation over hives. :)

    Great post!!

  • Jody Feldman
    March 6, 2008

    Thanks for posting this, Darcy.
    I remember emerging from your workshop so overwhelmed by what I needed to do with my manuscript, but so ready to get to work. Thanks for that, too.

  • darcy
    March 6, 2008

    Jody: What matters is that you did do the work! And look where it got you! Congratulations and may Gollywhopper go far!

    Darcy

  • Joni
    March 7, 2008

    Hey, cool idea to talk to a bunch of 2k8ers (especially if they’ll all talk about revision, which is still icky for me). Loved Jody’s story!

    Joni (a 2k7er)

  • darcy
    March 7, 2008

    Joni–

    Most of the 2k8ers will talk about revision, but some will talk about their writing studios.

    Darcy