I met Elizabeth Brown at a nonfiction retreat in 2016, and, in a round table session with an editor, I saw the beginning of this story. I’m so thrilled it’s now as a picture book! Thank you, Elizabeth for sharing your process of ensuring the balance of layers while also keeping your focus.
And Elizabeth is offering a GIVEAWAY! Just leave a comment after the post for a chance to win a copy of LIKE A DIAMOND IN THE SKY!
Congrats to Sarah Meade, winner of THE WISH THAT GOT AWAY by Christine Evans!
Weaving in the Story’s Layers in Like a Diamond in the Sky: Jane Taylor’s Beloved Poem of Wonder and the Stars
by Elizabeth Brown
When I first came up with the idea to write this story, I approached it as the story of how “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” became a song. Through my research, I discovered this well-known lullaby has a rich and fascinating origin. It would require a carefully planned and well-layered text. Jane Taylor wrote a poem titled “The Star” which became the words of the song under a host of struggles. I needed to pick the elements I wanted to layer in for the story, and at the same time, not overwhelm the text with too much.
Like a Diamond in the Sky is more than the story of how Jane wrote a poem that became a famous song, but it is a story of resilience, finding the joy in the everyday, and of creating art for lasting change. All of these layers resonated with me as a writer, and part of the appeal of Jane’s story, is that I could highlight these aspects of her life in this story as each layer was important to understanding Jane’s importance in children’s literature. I wanted to ensure that readers understand Jane’s fascinating life through these different woven layers, like a tapestry.
I threaded Jane’s struggle to write and then to publish using her real name in a male-dominated literary world. This is the main storyline, and therefore, the largest layer. It was the layer into which I wove the other two. Since Jane enjoyed nature and the stars and all that everyday life had to offer, this was the next layer to embed, but less than the first. Finally, the last layer, Jane’s hope that her work would change children’s literature by giving children books they’d enjoy reading, not just educational reading, would flow along behind the other two.
I plotted the throughline from the start, and then added in the others onto the plot diagram. By using a different color for each layer, both on the plot diagrams and then when I wrote the story out by hand in as a book dummy, I was able to see approximate percentages, making sure that finding joy was the second most prevalent layer, and that creating for change in children’s books the least prevalent of all. This worked well, and in revising, I was able to keep a close eye on keeping these layers measured out well. I have never done this type of meticulous planning of layering before in any of my manuscripts, but for this story, I wanted all of these layers and needed a way to keep control of them.
Lastly, any other pertinent facts or details that did not weave into these three story lines and layers, I put into the back matter. I was able to make sure I did not have any excess information in the text, and it helped me keep track of all my research as I wrote, too!
Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of LIKE A DIAMOND IN THE SKY! (US addresses, ends 4/8/22)