Writing Matthew Flinders, Adventures on Leaky Ships

Matthew Flinders - Wild Dog Books

This week we hand over blog-writing duties to the talented author of Putting Australia on the Map and Matthew Flinders: Adventures on Leaky Ships, Carole Wilkinson.

Matthew Flinders fitted an awful lot into the 40 years of his life. And I wanted to write about it all! The first draft of Matthew Flinders: Adventures on Leaky Ships was around 10,000 words, but this was to be an illustrated book. My publisher wanted closer to 3,000!

Usually when I edit my books, particularly novels, they get longer. This one had to be shorter – a lot shorter.

I needed to take out some of the less important incidents, focusing on the drama of his life, yet hopefully still fitting in some of the more personal events. It was a challenge. I picked up my red pen and decided which incidents could go. I crossed out every extraneous word.

I got it down to about 4000 words, but instead of feeling that I had lost something, I think it actually improved the story.

Every event in the book has significance.

Every word is important.

Subplots are economically threaded through.

Then the space I had created was filled with Prue Pittock’s wonderful illustrations. Each one of them embellished the story. Some illustrations eloquently told their own story – the difference between the uniforms of a Commander and a Second Lieutenant, what Sydney looked like in 1795, how food was stored on board a sailing ship.

There were final edits, and Donna Rawlins worked her design magic, including adding the best timeline ever!

Thanks Carole. It’s fascinating to hear about the work that goes into writing the illustrated non fiction book, Matthew Flinders: Adventures on Leaky Ships