I first learned to write by studying other books and what they did to keep readers hooked. When I was trying to grasp the basics (and I mean very basics), I would sit and list what sort of information was revealed in each chapter, how long they were, and how they were structured, and when there was a time jump. I would count how many characters there were, when new ones were introduced, and what their role was. I was, without realising it, trying to figure out how to put a plot together. But that is only half the job, and that’s not something I realised until much later. The other half is the story.
If the plot is the recipe – the measure of ingredients that make up a cake – the story is the flavour, icing, and design.
I’m sure many reading this will have come across the seven basic plots: overcoming the monster, rags to riches, the quest, voyage and return, comedy, tragedy, rebirth.
You can find out more about each of them online. It’s useful to know where your plot fits, because it gives you a template to follow to make sure your events are working together. My debut novel, A Pocketful of Stars, adds a video game twist to the classic quest tale.
Imagine each of these seven basic plots as a different cake recipe. You have chocolate, victoria sponge, carrot etc. How, then, do you make your cake different from all of the others? By decorating it, and adding in some of your own flavours. By coming up with the story. Put quite simply: a story is the heart of what you’re trying to do. It’s the themes, the arcs, the emotional core.
That’s what we’ll be doing on the Saturday afternoon of my workshop weekend, once we’ve spent the morning brainstorming ideas.
On Sunday morning we’ll focus on editing. With a book under my belt and a second to be edited, I’ll walk you through my (extensive) edit letters and how I tackle them. We’ll talk about each stage of edits and what they require, and run through different ways to approach them, from planning to execution.
My debut MG, A Pocketful of Stars, was published in August 2019, but it took me over a year-and-a-half to edit because I kept pulling the structure apart, and putting it back together. In the end, not one chapter remained the same. And that’s OK. Writing a story is the first hurdle, but really bringing it to life is my favourite part of the entire writing journey.
If you want to know what it’s like to edit a book with a publisher (the ins and outs of the process, how things can progress, what deadlines are like etc.) this is the course for you! Over two intensive days we’ll cover everything from idea generation right through to finding representation.
On Saturday afternoon I’ll talk you through how to approach agents, and how to put together a cover letter and synopsis. There will be some resources and templates for you to take home, to help you with your submission journey. Aside from writing, I have experience working at literary agencies where I’ve worked with clients and read submissions.
And, of course, you’ll get to chat 1-2-1 with the wonderful Ludo Cinelli who is an assistant at the Eve White Literary Agency where I also work as a children’s reader.
I’m super excited for this weekend, and I hope to see some of you there!
Aisha Bushby was born in Bahrain and has lived in Kuwait, England and Canada. Now she mostly lives in the worlds of her children’s books. Aisha’s debut novel A Pocketful of Stars was longlisted for the Carnegie medal and shortlisted for the Branford Boase award. Her books are always full of heart and have a sprinkling of magic in them.