Thursday, 15 September 2016

Guest post: author Eliza B Hill

I've been chatting with local (to me) author Eliza B Hill who has just published her children's novel The Little Garden Gate - and as if writing the story wasn't enough, she has also illustrated it. Isn't the cover lovely? She shares her thoughts here:

'For six years I was fortunate and privileged to spend a lot of time with my two granddaughters and to be a part of their world of make-believe and imagination.

'Do you have fairies in your garden? Do they sit on your windowsill in the evening and listen to your problems? Ours did, or so I was told. I needed to remain proactive and ready for the girls' visits. What better way than to write a book about our imaginary friends, illustrate it and then publish it myself?

'In less than three months, the stories tumbled from my head and I stopped at around 20,000 words. What a jumble! I walked away for a few weeks then re-read the manuscript with a clearer mind. It wasn't good. In order to give the book structure yet retain a theme throughout, I returned to my finance days: accountancy errors are never found starting at the top of the balance sheet, but if you begin at the bottom and work back the error will appear.

'So, I completed the final story first. Now all I had to do was arrive there, so I created a spreadsheet listing the characters and where they could appear in the book. From here on, I was able to understand how many drawings would be required and on what pages the stories would begin and end. Simple infrastructure to connect the characters was the key. The strongest protagonists emerged and more changes were made to weed out the weakest characters. Their stories could be used another time.

'It worked for me (apart from some crazy grammatical mistakes that were ironed out by a competent, professional and trustworthy lady without whom this would not have been possible).

'My project has been a learning curve and next time it will be much better. Someone lit a fire in my belly and unwittingly gave me a second chance. All because, at the lowest point in my life, I picked up paper, paints and crayons and believed in two little girls.'

Two things struck me: Eliza's willingness to cut out superfluous characters; and her methodical approach to story structure and layout. Anyone else work like this?


  1. I can't say I've worked exactly like this, but I do like to have a complete first draft before bothering to do serious editing. It's only after I see the whole picture and think about what I want the story to accomplish that I can edit the individual pieces.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Tamara. I think it's good to have a plan. Like you, I like to get to the end and then go back to the beginning.

  2. I'm full of admiration for this whole project, Eliza! I don't think I've ever been so methodical or have cut characters out like this, Julia. In fact in one novel, my then editor persuaded me to add a character - have never been sure I did the right thing!

    1. Telling you to add a character sounds very intrusive to me, Rosemary.