Slightly over ten years ago, December 2008, I submitted some commentary on a fragment of work named “Mr Chen” that I had been developing on the Writing for Young People MA at Bath Spa.
Here’s some of that commentary:
“I was supposed to be writing about the moment that a character crosses from one world to another – I had thought it could just be the ‘call to adventure’ and was working up to that point – when I realised that I was writing the wrong piece. So Mr Chen lay there in longhand, written on an early Sunday morning with a candle and a fire, until I needed to create a world for the Workshop Module. As I find it more productive to start any writing from a real object, I had chosen a building that I know well and pulled the characters out of it. I also used the things I know about some of the people that lived around the building to help construct the situation. I ended up in the late eighteenth century, with a boy and a house full of tailors and clockmakers.
A second draft gave the central character a name and I worked on suggestions from the workshop group as to how to precipitate ‘Athan’ into the adventure. Also in response to the workshop I increased the landscape from the building to incorporate the world outside.
In this third draft, after reading it aloud to my son, I created two sisters for Athan, Cleo (Beatty) aged 6 who he loves and protects, and another older and bossier. These two made it easier for me to define his character, and his mother’s.”
Nothing I’ve written before or since has gone through anything like the same scrutiny. Not only did that story undergo my awkward self analysis, but also the comments and suggestions of the fine collection of writers who taught and were on that course at the time.
It was universally loved, but not quite enough for publication. And it fell into disuse in a bottom drawer of my computer, periodically raising its head and waving a hand.
Other books were published.
And now, here I am, two months from publication. That story has now become the “Boy Who Flew”. There are also more than thirty drafts, each one getting longer and longer, until the final version – the sculpted, tighter, shorter version – with the stunning cover –the one you get to read on March 7th.