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Monday, July 29, 2013

Playing Favorites

by Sarah McGuire

VALIANT is currently out of my hands, so I'm concentrating on what comes next and starting my next story.

That, of course, has me thinking of siblings. 

Of course. 

I haven't been teaching too long, but I've already taught siblings. Every time, someone inevitably warns me not to expect one sibling to be like the one I've already taught. 

No kidding. 

I'm the oldest of four. I get that no two kids are alike. 

Why, then, have I been comparing this infant of a story to its older sister? 


  • It's not as exciting as VALIANT was at this point.
  • It's middle is boring. VALIANT's middle wasn't boring.
  • I'm not sure what drives the villain in Baby Story. VALIANT's villain was so much scarier. From the very, very beginning.
  • I don't have a handle on my heroine. I knew exactly what to do with Saville.* 

And so it goes– a chorus in my head that compares Baby Story to VALIANT. Thing is, I already know how comparison between siblings works. 

When I was fourteen, I discovered that my hair was curly. Thanks to an amazing hairstylist, a little product, and a promise to never brush my hair again, I went from bushy hair to curly hair. 

In one day. 

It was like the heavens opened and smiled on my gawky, teenaged self. Shortly after that transformation, someone came up to my sister and me and gushed about my hair. She finished by fingering a lock of my sister's hair, shaking her head, and saying, "...but mine's just like this." 

Well, then. 

My sister felt like crap, and I wasn't too far behind her. 

The truth is, Suzanne has awesome hair. It's thick, silky, and it never frizzes. (I'll give you one guess about which one of us looked better after a ride in a convertible.) 

The lesson? 

Comparisons hurt both kids being compared. It doesn't make the "better" sibling any better, and it blinds you to the good (aka 'never frizz') properties of the sibling that's being compared.

Somehow, thinking about my stories as siblings has helped me, because I know you don't treat a person that way. 

I don't do it with my students. 

In fact, when I realize I have a new sibling, I go out of my way to discover what's distinct about him or her. I work to connect with that student as an individual.

So I'm doing that with Baby Story. I'm choosing to treat it as its own entity, to dig in and discover its own heart.

Am I still scared? Oh yes. Because that's what it boils down to: fear that I can't write a story that sings like VALIANT. But the truth is, that's about me, not Baby Story. It's just easier to blame Baby Story than wonder if I can write a good second story. 

But I'm pretty sure that treating Baby Story as its own person will help all of us: VALIANT, Baby Story, and me.

I'm curious: how do you juggle multiple stories?


*I did not! I remember blathering to Patti Gauch about not knowing what to do with Saville, that I could write her forty different ways. Patti leaned in, gave me the Eye, and told me, "Pick one." I did– and almost saluted. As usual, her advice was spot-on.


Art: By Hugo Salmson, via Wikimedia Commons

2 comments:

  1. This is the first time I've written & revised two books at once. My "trick" (or accident, whatever!) is to write in two very different genres and styles so comparison is impossible. I love them both for different reasons - just like my kids.

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    1. Beth, I'm so sorry for the late reply! (I've been traveling.) That's a great way to limit comparison. I think my trouble stemmed from the fact that both were fairy tale retellings. Fortunately the heroines are both very different, and that's helping the further into the baby story I go.

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