Thursday, June 2, 2011

What's Broken? #4

TITLE: The Dragon and the Enchanted Kingdom
GENRE: Children's/pb

I have rewritten/edited several times. It has been short listed with one editor and received good responses from two others. Yet it is still rejected. Timing seems off somewhere and ending kinda lame. Any advice would be wonderful. Thanks.

Horns are trumpeted all around for some heroes to be found.

A call goes out across the land -- Help is needed!

10 -- Ten beautiful fairies fly over …

9 -- Nine guardian dwarves marching in rows of three. Who meet up with …

8 -- Eight ornery elves driving a wagon full of hay. For …

7 -- Seven knights brave and strong riding on armored horses. Who are busy


6 -- Six lively pixies mounted on squirrels skittering from tree to tree. Trying

to avoid --

5 -- Five gnomes with pointed hats. Who are sidestepping….

4 -- Four white unicorns charging up the hill. In front of …

3 -- Three feisty leprechauns with clovers standing tall. Who have hidden

their pots of gold from--

2 -- Two human children

All have gathered together to defeat--

1 -- One mean, vicious, smoke rolling, fire spitting, soot blackened, red eyed

dragon. She has flown into the kingdom and claimed it as her own.

The dragon takes to the air as the battle begins; her powerful wings whipping up dirt

and debris. The falling dust covering everything with a layer of filth as far as the eye can


The dragon puts up a fierce fight, challenging all who come near. She uses her fire

breath to scorch wings and burn hats; smoke wagons and blacken armor. Shrieks of

surprise and then shouts of joy can be heard.

When the dust settles true heroes can be found in--

10 -- Ten dirty fairies limping off the field.

9 -- Nine guardian dwarfs dragging the--

8 -- Eight ornery elves. In front of--

7 -- Seven knights brave and strong hanging onto armored horses. Who are still

watching --

6 -- Six pixies sitting astride tired squirrels. They are shuffling in front of--

5 -- Five gnomes with hats a smoking. Who are trying to stay out of the way of--

4 -- Four brown unicorns walking down the hill. In front of --

3 -- Three tired leprechauns with clovers bent and wilting. All have cleared a

path for--

2 -- Two human children carrying--

1 -- One large blackened pot on wooden planks, full of the dragon's fire, with

smoke a-drifting.

Battered but not beaten; tired but not trampled the heroes have won. They have

defeated the dragon and have captured her fire.

Cheers can be heard throughout the land for now the kingdom is safe. Without her

fire, the dragon is no longer a mean and vicious beast. She is now a kinder, quieter ~ new



  1. Hope this helps!

    I think the first sentence is stronger as "Horns trumpet." The rest is more or less repeated in the second sentence. Some of the sentences would work better if you switched the focus. For example, the wagons carry hay for the horses, but the next sentence starts with the knights. Following that, it reads as if the horses are looking at the pixies. So perhaps the wagons are loaded with hay. For warhorses carrying brave knights who are looking at... Does this make sense?

    It's not clear whether the pixies or the squirrels are avoiding the gnomes. Do you need the reference to mounted squirrels if it's a picture book? Wouldn't the picture show they're mounted on squirrels? I admit I am completely ignorant about the process of submitting this type of book.

    "Smoke wagons" doesn't work for me, but I'm not sure why. Maybe you need another word to tie it back to the fire? She uses her fire ... to smoke wagons, or something like that?

    Are their just cries of surprise, or would there be fear, pain, etc.? Fear to joy makes sense. But surprise to joy didn't quite work.

    Similar comment about the horses and the knights as above. I think you need to flip these two nouns.

    I don't think you need "without her fire." I wonder if it's stronger to start the sentence "the dragon is," since we know she has lost her fire.

    I really loved this, even if my comments ran on a bit!

  2. It's hard to comment on this without referencing the whole thing, I think. :)

    The concept is really cute. As much as I hate to say it (being a person who thinks dumbing down for kids is really annoying), I think there may be some words in here that are making their own obstacles: ornery, sidestepping, etc. I don't know, on second read-through I'm not as convinced of that; that was just my first impression.

    I think the flow in the countdown is not as good as it could be. We have this book, "123 Octopus and Me," which does the same sort of thing as what you're attempting in these countdowns--creating a continuous sentence. I don't find that it flows from one to the next as smoothly as it could, and that's probably a factor in the eventual "no thanks." Some of the transitions seem a little too contrived. Also, there's quite a bit of variety in the sentence lengths and complexity, which hampers that flow.

    Then, when you go to the center battle scene, I think this sentence: "All have gathered together to defeat..." is so different that it feels a little jarring. What if you make that the end of the sentence? (Countdown/list) all gathered to defeat..." Subtle change, but then the center portion connects to the first.

    The center section the sentences are a whole lot longer and more complex, which causes it to be less friendly to a young audience--which is, I think, what you're going for. If I was reading it to my kids I would break it into much smaller sentences. I have to do that sometimes with kids' books. (Sometimes I go the other way, too, putting in pronouns b/c I can't stand to say "the tractor" one more time! But I digress.)

    "can be heard," "horns are trumpeted," "heroes to be found"--very passive. You can get away with some, but try to tighten into more active sentences.

    The conclusion section felt a little odd to me, too. I like the part about the dragon being a better neighbor, but the rest of it felt like it was dragging out too long. Which brings me to my last thought: what's the word count on a children's book? Because I'm wondering if this is just too long as it stands. I don't know--I've never tried writing a kids' book.

    This is a great concept for a book, with some real gems in the writing. I wouldn't spend all this time nitpicking if I didn't think it was worthwhile. :) I hope this is helpful, from t he perspective of a mom of 3 kids age 6 and under. :)

  3. This reminds me of a Ten Wishing Sheep book my son has (21-months-old) that starts at 10 and counts down to 1 but it only does it once, whereas you do it twice. I also wonder on word count like one of the above posters, but I don't write children's stories (just read them to my son :). This would make for a longish book to read before bed for some but i'm not sure the exact age range you are looking for.

    I was trying to see if there was a way to maybe take the first 10 to 1 and instead flip it so you are counting forward 1 to 10. Then the second part of the book can be the counting down from 10 to 1 (hope that makes sense). Based on what i've seen in stores and library that would be a unique twist. Maybe starting with the dragon as the foe of the town and then counting up as you 'gather' more heros? Just a thought I had while reading.

    There were a few word choices I too paused on, like 'ornery'. I don't know why but it seemed off to me and did make me think about would i buy a book where i'd have to explain the word (I would by the way lol; its just that word can have a more adult interpretation).

    Personally, the 7 knights didn't seem to fit. I'd pick one adjective. Seven brave knights... and it was unclear why brave knights would spend the battle just watching the pixies. I would suggest shortening the battle in between the two counting sets.

    Also the phrase "smoke wagons" didn't work for me. Not 100% sure what you mean (were they smoking from being hit by fire, were they designed to emit smoke, were they designed to capture smoke (and if so why would you?)?)

    I love the concept and you have a lot of interesting aspects to this. I can see why you've gotten reads on it. I love, love, love that the dragon is now a new quieter neighbor! Such a pleasant surprise at the end for I feared the dragon was dead.

    Overall I really do like this which is why I wrote so much. Best of luck to you and i hope to hear in the future that this has been published so I can read it to my son!

  4. PB's (in the US) are generally 1,000 words or less, and usually less is the norm, so you're probably within the word count. Still this could be cut considerably because, as a PB, there is no need for all the description. That's what the pictures are for. You'd just be saying - 10 dirty fairies, 9 guardian dwarves - and the pictures would show what they are doing (you could include the description in an illustrator's note in parentheses and italics) If the reader can get everything that's going on in your story without the pictures, then you have a magazine story, not a PB. It should be vague and unclear without the pictures.

    I thought anonymous had a great idea of going 1-10 and then back again, and starting with the 1 dragon causing some trouble. It would give more focus to the story as well as make it more linear. It also brings the story full circle by ending where it started.

    I didn't think the ending worked. It's an added on lesson for the kiddies, which makes it didactic. The real reason the dragon is quieter is because he doesn't have his fire any more, not because he learned any lessons. The dragon didn't change. If you're going to say he's kinder, he needs to come to some kind of realization that terror and destruction isn't the way to go, and that's not the story you're telling. Perhaps simply end the story with the heroes walking off with the pot of fire and the dragon sitting all alone looking defeated and helpless. And the kid's learn a lesson about teamwork and courage without you ever mentioning either one, which is how a message or moral is supposed to work.

    Technically, the transitions as you count up and down could be smoother, but if you leave the description to the illustrator, it becomes a non-issue. One becomes - 1 dragon - and the picture shows it's mean and ornery and blowing smoke and fire. The illustrations will also show what they are doing and what they look like.

    I think simplifying this could be just what it needs. In the end, you may end up with as few as 250-300 words, or even less, but it will be much stronger.

  5. I think you do well with the variety of verbs you use. There are perhaps too many adjectives--in PBs, the illustrator should take care of the visuals while the writer narrates the actions.
    I'm not sure I agree with a-smoking and a-drifting. Those seem a bit over-styled. All of the explanatory clauses, like "Who are..." slow down the narrative, in my opinion.
    Good luck!

  6. Have you considered making the children more pivotal? Maybe something about 'who out of all these heroes will be brave enough to capture the dragon's fire?' And I really like the suggestion of putting the problem first--that the dragon is a bad and dangerous neighbor. I also like the idea of counting up, then down or vice versa. If you want an example (though it's not like your story at all) see Up to ten and Down again. Good luck.

  7. Cool concept of using fantasy in a counting book. I'd buy the concept, but the execution isn't working as you've mentioned.

    Try reversing your first ten points. Begin with 1 dragon moving to the 10; then you would reverse it as you have now with 10 to 1. That would set up the scary dragon immediately. I'd prefer that visually in the artwork.

    Then your description in the later half is far more MG rather than simple counting book. You'll need to fix that.

    Good luck with this. I'd love to buy it for my grand-daughter when you get it ironed out!

  8. I totally love the idea of counting up and then down again. I have been inspired and have already started the rewrite.
    Thanks everyone for your comments!! :-))