I like to go through a writers work as any first time reader would for this developmental editing service.. My comments and critiques will reflect that in the editing. My words will always be in pink. Please note any deletions against the original. Let’s get started…
Big Foot Little Feet
This adventure story teaches a lesson that: adventure in action, stretches beyond the discovery of objects or creatures; but, adventure includes discovering oneself. Adventure is discovering one’s abilities and willingness to want the courage to think beyond the surface of what can be seen. Adventure also includes having courage to step out and reach into places where others hesitate or dare to go. The fun part of an adventure is when the adventurer gets to see; hear; touch; feel; and maybe even taste, what has been discovered.
Developmental Editing Note: OK… this is never a good idea. Just TAKE us ON the adventure. Don’t analyze the adventure before we even start. The notion of adventure is different for everyone. Skydiving may be a thrilling adventure for some or an attempt at suicide for others. Just give kids a great adventurous story. When it’s written well, kids will understand what a great adventure is.
In this story Beth is 11 years old; and her brother Jack is 10 years old. Beth is very street-smart; average in her school work; quick to try anything, and is always up to something. Jack is a bit more reserved and very smart. He knows about math and science; and he is a good video gamer.
They enjoy going out in the woods and lakes and places; where they can meet different kinds of creatures, animals and other children. They are always happy about making new friends, especially when they are able to help. Well this is all good but it’s not told as a story. Give us action and dialogue. Give us a situation where Beth and Jack have to use their skills to overcome a challenge. That’s a story.
Beth and Jack are very close as sister and brother.
They prove it, as they always help each other through situations. Don’t just tell us this, show us. What do they do? Beth and Jack are excited to accompany their Dad on another special work assignment in the mountainous woods. Their Dad is a natural resource’s engineer. He works on special projects to study lakes and remote mountains. Some areas in the woods, near where his projects are located are considered, “No man’s land.” Some of the town’s older residents call that area of the wooded mountains this name because “no man should go near that land” and comes from some stories that float around town, that there are weird sightings in that area.
Beth and Jack’s Dad sometimes talk about his almost twenty years’ experience of working in these remote mountains.
But, all that he will ever say is, “Up in the mountains, in the woods, ‘Life is interesting.’”
No one is able to get him to be specific, not even his children, Beth and Jack. At early dawn, Beth, Jack and their Dad arrive in his 4-wheel drive SUV. As usual, Dad parks in front of the wooded cabin that was built about twenty-five years ago. They unload their luggage, as they will be staying for a few nights.
Dad unlocks the front door to the cabin, and tells Beth and Jack to “Go inside and get comfortable; and I will see you guys in a few hours. I’ll be working on the lake project this time.”
Dad leaves the cabin and heads off to work. Beth and Jack are left alone in the cabin, with not much to do for entertainment.
After one hour of being in the cabin, Beth says to Jack, “Remember the last time we came to the cabin with dad, and we went into the woods?”
“Yeah” Replies Jack.
Beth continues, “Well, I never said anything at that time, but I knew I heard a strange noise and thought I saw something really weird.”
“Sooooo, what is your point?” Exclaimed Jack.
Beth explains, “Well, it’s been bugging me ever since; I really want to find out what it was.”
“Now Beth,” warns Jack, “You know that last time we went into the woods, we actually went into restricted areas. You remember the posted signs that said Danger Zone. You do remember that, right?”
Beth Responds, “Yes, but I’m bored sitting in this old, outdated cabin with nothing to do. Can we go to the woods again, please, please, please?”
“Aren’t you concerned about the story floating around town, about that area the locals call, “No man’sland?”
“No, not really,” repliedBeth.
“Okay,” saidJack, but we must be very careful… agree?”
“Yes!” yelled Beth.
Developmental Editing Note: OK… first.. lines of dialogue go on separate lines. Please review punctuation for dialogue. You’ve mostly got it down.** These are minor things.
Where the biggest problem is… is in the story itself. There really isn’t any story so far. This reads like back story for your characters. Information that is for your eyes only as the writer not the reader’s. In the beginning you’ve told us what adventure is. We’re waiting to be taken on one. There is far too much description about ordinary things and dialogue that doesn’t move the story forward. Why not just say they arrived at the cabin and as soon as their Dad left for work, they headed to “No Man’s Land.” ??? Then the adventure begins… Do you see what I’m saying here?
Beth and Jack venture off into the woods to explore that strange noise and the weird image that Beth can’t seem to erase from her memory. They are very curious, and are happy to be outside in nature. As they go deep in the woods, they realize they are not alone.
They see something big and hairy like a big hairy person.
They are a little afraid, but they move closer and closer, to have a better look. As they get close, they see what looks to be the creature that some people call Bigfoot. Beth and Jack are excited, but a little afraid of the Bigfoot creature, based on the horror stories they heard about Bigfoot creatures.
As they are looking, they step on a branch on the ground; and it makes a loud snap sound; and the Bigfoot creature turns and looks right at them; they are so scared that they both turn around and start running as fast as they could. OK… there is no description of what Jack and Beth look like or how old they are or where they are other than the woods in general. Although, there seems to be much emphasis on how scared they are pursuing Beth’s memory of a strange noise. You’ve made many assumptions about what the reader should know.
You say they are enjoying being out in nature but you haven’t described anything.
Make us smell the woods, hear the birds, the babbling brook, make us feel the cool breeze on our faces and the spongy leaf-covered ground under our feet. You’ve assumed that everyone who will read the story has been to the woods at least a few times. You’ve also assumed that the reader knows what a “Bigfoot creature” is.
If there is a legend in town, of a Bigfoot then tell us what it is so we know what they could possibly be up against.
They run a few yards away and suddenly fall into a big hole in the ground. They are not hurt but they are lying in the bottom of the big hole. Then they try to climb out but can’t get out because the hole is too deep. They are so afraid and don’t know what to do since they are trapped in the bottom of the big hole.
After a few minutes they look up and see the Bigfoot creature looking at them in the bottom of the hole; they are scared of what will happen to them as the Bigfoot starts to make noise above them. The Bigfoot begins moving trees around; and then he takes a big branch and lays it down in the hole so they can climb out; they look up and see the creature reaching out his big arm and hand to help them climb out.
Developmental Editing Note: Ok… you’ve got to become more descriptive in your writing. This reads like an essay not a creative writing project. Stories force the reader to use their imaginations. Textbooks and reports force us to use our analytical minds. You’ve told kids what an adventure is yet there is no adventure here. It’s a series of we-went-here-and-did-this-and-then-we-went-there-and-did-that. I encourage you to read some popular kids books.
Really look at how they’ve crafted the story so the reader feels like they’re in the story with the characters. Eg. The Harry Potter series
Jack says to Beth, “Wow, take a look at his big hairy arm and hand. His long arm and big hand extending into the hole is reminding me of the arm of a backhoe machine that dad uses for his job to pull deeply rooted trees out of the ground.”??? Really?? Is that what you would want to say in a situation like that?
Beth adds, “Take a look at his big eyes, they are the size of a baseball.” ???
“Yes, I see them.” Jack replies, “They are also shiny and bright white, and perfectly round like a full moon.” ???
As they look into his eyes and face, they don’t see a creature at all; instead, they see a warm friendly smiling face, very hairy however. They are no longer afraid; so they reach out to the Bigfoot, as he helps them get out of the big hole.
After they are out of the hole, they look at him and say, “Thank you.”
To their surprise, he answers back with, “You’re welcome,”in a deep but pleasant voice.
“You can talk?” they ask.
The Bigfoot says, “Yes, I can talk, but I never have anyone to talk to out here. I’m always all alone in these thick and lonely woods. I always have to hide and be aware of humans, they are forever trying to look for me to take pictures of me. They want to capture me and study my kind. But I think I am the last of my kind, I haven’t seen any other ‘Bigfoots’- as you call them, in a long time.”
Beth replies, “We are amazed at your huge size. I have never seen another person of your size. So, I can understand why some people want to study you. But, you don’t have to worry about us, we won’t take your picture or do anything to get you caught.”
Bigfoot stares at Beth and Jack and shows a bright smile of relief.
Jack looks down at Bigfoot’s feet and puts his own foot next to one of the big hairy feet and says, “Well, I can see why they call you Bigfoot. You do have pretty big feet. They all laugh looking at his big foot compared to Jack’s little foot.”
Beth says, “I’m sad that you are alone out here with no friends and have to hide from us humans.”
“It’s ok,” saidBigfoot. I have been hiding in these woods for a very long time. And so far, I have been very lucky not to get caught with so many people looking for me.”
Beth and Jack responds, “We wish that we could do something to help.” Bigfoot smiles and thanks them for caring.
Beth asks, “Is there anything special you need, or that we can get for you to make things better for you out here in the woods?”
Bigfoot replies, “I have a nice hidden cave that I live in and it’s got everything I need to survive. Again, thank you for asking.”
Beth and Jack want to stay longer and talk to Bigfoot but the time was getting late, so they said, “We better get back to the cabin or our father will worry about us.”
Beth adds, “I hope we can visit you and talk to you again, Mr. Bigfoot.”
“I would like that very much,” says Bigfoot.
Jack asked,“How will we find you?”
“I will find you,” says Bigfoot, “Just come alone and don’t tell anyone about me and keep our meeting a secret. Agree?”
“Yes, your secret is safe withus. Wedon’t want anyone to find you and capture you,” Beth and Jack promised.
**It’s important to understand stories are almost always told in the past tense because they’ve already happened.*
“Thank you,” said Bigfoot, I’m glad to have friends like you.”
“Do you have enough food to eat? Is there any special kinds of food you eat?” Beth asks.???
Developmental Editing Note: Why does she ask this? It seems to come out of the blue. This sounds too much like a general getting-to-know-ya kind of conversation. That’s not what moves a story forward. You must give us action.
Show us. Don’t tell us.
Developmental Editing example, if the Bigfoot is this friendly maybe he grabs a thin branch off a nearby bush and starts gnawing on it. Maybe he takes off a few berries from somewhere and offers them to Beth and Jack.
The construction of a story and how the information is presented is very important. You never want your reader thinking, How did they get there? Or Huh? Why did that happen now? Etc… The only question you want them asking themselves is, What’s going to happen next?!
Always try to view your story as a completely new reader… which is extremely difficult to do.
Which is also why the act of editing exists.
Developmental Editing Note —> The formula of introduction → rising action → climax → falling action–> to resolution still holds true today for every type of story. Whether it’s a full on mystery/thriller, a piece of erotica or a children’s book. This formula is tried and true and should be adhered to for maximum reader enjoyment.
“Well, one time I found a bag of potato chips and I really like eating them. So, if the next time you come out here in the woods, if it’s not too much trouble and if you have some potato chips, I would really appreciate that.”
“Potato chips,” Beth laughs and says, that’s easy, we have lots of potato chips at home, and we love to eat them also. We promise that the next time we come here, we will bring you a few bags, okay?”
Bigfoot chuckles and says, “That would be so nice.”
Beth and Jack wave goodbye to their secret new friend. They walk for thirty minutes before reaching their cabin home. All the way back to the cabin, all they could talk aboutwashow huge Bigfootwas.
Beth says to Jack, “I am proud of you for being brave and never appearing scared.”
Jack replies, “Well, to be honest, I was just a little scared and nervous at first, but then again, I know that I am always safe when you are around. You are the real adventurer around here.”
Beth turned to Jack, laughs and says, “And don’t you forget that.”
Developmental Editing Note: There is a lot of talk about the feelings of fear here which seems more like fear mongering than it is based on anything in the story. You’ve only told us Bigfoot is “huge” but we don’t know what that means exactly. Compare him to something.
When he hands down a tree branch for them to climb on have it be twice as thick as Jack. Mention how they felt like they were craning their necks up to look the Bigfoot in the eye. Say how his hand was so big it could wrap around Jack’s head with his fingers overlapping to the knuckle. Or whatever. Give us something to visualize instead of just telling us he’s “huge.” That’s how a story is built. Detail after specific detail, in a logical order until the story unfolds.
As they stay in the cabin that night they are very careful not to say anything to their Dad when he asked“What did you do all day there?”
They said, “Just playing in the woods.”
“Be careful!” saidtheir Dad, “all I will say is, up in the mountains, in the woods, life is interesting!”
The two adventures reply at the same time, “We will Dad, don’t worry.”
The next day they get up and leave for the woods again, this time bringing a few bags of potato chips for Bigfoot. Almost every day that summer when they stayedin the mountains they visited Bigfoot and brought him food. Theybecamethe best of friends, never telling anyone about their adventures and of the secret friend that they had made in the woods.
Developmental Editing Note: **Excessive use of the word “and.” Sometimes repetition works. In this case it didn’t.
Adventure includes having courage to step out and reach into places where others hesitate or dare to go.
Do you think the Dad knew about the “Bigfoot” in the woods?
Do you think Beth and Jack should tell Dad about their secret friend?
If you met a “Bigfoot” like Beth and Jack’s secret friend, what would be your first question?
Developmental Editing Note: This “Lesson” and “Discussion” are not necessary. If you’ve done a good enough job of writing the story the lesson will be clear. Let them arrive at their own conclusions. Adults too often want to preach at their child readers. Besides, in my opinion you have not accomplished the lesson you say the story is about. There is a lot to rework here.
What this is in essence… is a summarized outline for a story. This is very much like the prep work a writer does to get themselves organized to write the real story.
The great thing is that you have an excellent command of the written English language. Other than a few minor grammar and punctuation errors with the dialogue and the incorrect use of verb tense, it’s well written. Where there needs to be a lot of work is in the story construction and storyline creativity.
A big problem I see many new writers make is the assumptions they make about what their reader knows. Tell us what a “Bigfoot” is rather than just calling it Bigfoot. You’ve assumed people have read or heard stories about the elusive Bigfoot in the woods.
Describe him. Tell us the legend. Fill us in.
More Developmental Editing Notes….
It’s your story. You can take us anywhere you want. The only criteria is that you make us believe. Without knowing what a Bigfoot is or the story surrounding it, it’s hard to go along with it. Also, tell us what Beth and Jack look like and their ages. Tell us the legend of “No Man’s Land.” And… get us there sooner! It doesn’t matter that there will be pictures. They only back up the story.
This story could start with the them at the cabin and their Dad going off to work. Then you could tell us about the legend… and then Beth and Jack could run off to find adventure in the woods. That’s when they come across Bigfoot. Tell us about Bigfoot. Make it scary. Really scary. Give us the possibility of real harm. Then… if you want Bigfoot to be a big ole benevolent baby, it will be a relief, a twist, a surprise in the story. You will have taken us on a real journey at that point.
Writing is a very difficult medium.
Even more Developmental Editing Notes…
You only have your words to get the story in your head onto the page in a way that encourages the reader to see it in their minds in a similar fashion. There isn’t much in this story for our imaginations to grab onto. It’s difficult to picture it in our minds because there are no descriptions, few details or specificity. Build a framework for our imaginations to fill in. That’s where the magic lays.
This may seem a little harsh but I understand the stage you’re at.
I try to give my clients the guidance I wished I had when I was struggling to find my own writing voice during these Developmental Editing Notes.
OK.. I’ll leave it there.
If my words have value please consider leaving positive feedback. Thank you.