Finding the Heart

Image by June Perkins

The last few months I have been revisiting picture book drafts and short stories, that didn’t feel like they were quite there yet.

Something special was missing.  I just couldn’t put my finger on it.  But I didn’t want to give up on the potential.

I had to have a huge break from them to see these pieces with a new heart.  I attended a few workshops and made tips lists for myself.  I read books on writing.  I read books I loved.  I waited and then I leapt back into my stories with hope!

What was I really trying to say in them?  How could I give them the life they deserved and make them leap off the page into the reader’s imagination?

I reflected on where do I want to go with my writing?  Where do I want to take the reader?  How can I invite them to a conversation without a set idea of the answer?  How can I make them care about the characters?

My new notebook for jotting down ideas in inspiring spaces, just looking at the cover makes me smile.

Here are the top ten techniques that have been helping me find the heart of my stories.

  1. Visualising the scenes and story boarding the works, including consideration of the turns pages to keep someone reading.
  2. Ensuring a story is played out to a length that allows me to do everything I intended without limitations (some picture books are short stories!)
  3. Changing the perspective the story is told from but retaining the overall scene and setting.
  4. Adding a sense of rhythm in the language from poetic techniques and keeping that going throughout the piece so it is a musical sound to the ear.
  5. Recognising when I am in the mood to work on a particular piece and going with the call of the muse.  Especially when it comes to hearing the music of words in my head.
  6. Removing the ‘thought verbs’ and rewriting the scenes without these.
  7. Playing with point of view, by extending it, restricting it, moving from first person to third person until it feels just right
  8. Adding the back story and pulling the back story out and hinting at it.
  9. Leaving the stories on a tricky point and day dreaming options to resolve that.
  10.  Changing the title to a key phrase in the story that I can use as a motif throughout the work.

So far, so good with this methodology.  One picture book became a short story and was successful in making it into an anthology.

One picture book remains a picture book, but the characters are so much closer to what I wanted them to be, and this one feels almost ready for submission.

Another three picture books are in the process of rewrites and again may be short stories, or short chapter books.

One flash fiction piece, from the ideas for my much longer memoir, made a long list for the Brisbane Writers Festival.  I will go back to the piece again and work on it and submit it somewhere.  Maybe I have lots of flash fiction pieces ready to go!

Another picture book is a definite chapter book and is progressing well.  This one had a change of perspective

My utmost thanks to Gabrielle Wang, Isobelle Carmody, Virginia Lowe, Giuseppe Poli, and Trent Dalton, for enabling me to press on in this journey with something they said in a talk, a tweet or a workshop, or something that they wrote that sparked a renewal of this journey, and also to other people who regularly read my work and give me some ideas of how to develop it.

Meeting Trent Dalton at the Brisbane Writers Festival

Some people are great sounding boards, as I tell them the story the solutions begin to just pop out of my brain, so thank you to anyone being that.

Today I have a whole day to write and revise.  I might even begin to tackle  unfinished novels.  Whilst I love revising, I keep jotting down new ideas and give myself space for free writes. 

One series of new ideas, free writes, is just called Australia’s Maya Angelou, and in this space I can write anything mostly from memories,  I am not sure if I will ever share it, but it is a place where anything goes with my writing, and I just experiment with all of the things outlined.  I think in these free writes there are more stories, poems and even one day finally that elusive memoir that might mean something to others.

So signing off from blogville land, to go visit my characters and their worlds, with a renewed sense of joy and a willingness to craft them until they have that special something.

June Perkins aka Gumbootspearlz

2 thoughts on “Finding the Heart

  1. How productive you are, June, and such an inspiration. I love the cover of your notebook. It makes me smile too. I couldn’t help but want to write into a notebook like that. Best wishes for all the projects you have underway.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Norah, thanks so much for your kind message. It is lovely hearing from people when I am busy creating at my desk. And its great you were able to buy some anthologies of the Christmas stories. I can’t wait to read the book and discover everyone’s stories and talent in there.

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