Back to list

Download

PDF

Added
22/10/2011

Tags

Re-Drafted: Noah Barleywater Runs Away

John Boyne

My second children’s novel, Noah Barleywater Runs Away, (published in September 2010) shows a lot more changes from draft to draft.

The opening lines of the novel originally read like this:

The boy was small and scared but he entered the village with the air of a man who knew that come the next election, he would be elected mayor. It was the only way to stop people asking questions of him; he’d learned this over the course of his journey so far.

The 2nd draft went like this:

The boy had left his home early that morning, before the sun rose, before the dogs woke, before anyone could know that he was going. At nine years old he was small for his age, but he entered the village with the air of a man who knows that come the next election, he will be elected mayor. It was the only way to stop people wondering why he was alone. It was important that he looked like he belonged there.

Again, the original draft had started the action directly in the place where Noah was visiting but from the second draft on, I brought it back in time one step, to when Noah is leaving his house.

Draft 3:

The boy left home early that morning, before the sun rose, before the dogs woke, before the dew stopped falling on the fields. He made no noise as he climbed out of bed and shuffled into his clothes, keeping a close eye on his older brother, Nat, in case he woke up and caught him. He held his breath as he went downstairs, knowing that at least three of the steps had a creak in them that was enough to wake the neighbourhood, but stepped so lightly on each one that he didn’t make a sound. In the hallway, he took his coat off the hook but didn’t put his shoes on until he had already left the house and walked down the laneway, gone through the gate and run around the corner, just in case his father heard the sound of the gravel crunching under his feet and came down to investigate.

By draft 3, we’re firmly in the house and the reader has a sense of Noah’s family. I felt it was important now that there was a sense of mystery as to why he was leaving and that it would be good to describe his home a little.

Draft 4:

The boy left home early that morning, before the sun rose, before the dogs woke, before the dew stopped falling on the fields. He climbed out of bed quietly and shuffled into his clothes, holding his breath as he went downstairs. Three of the steps had a loud creak in them where the wood didn’t knit together correctly so he stepped as lightly as he could on each one so he wouldn’t make a sound. In the hallway, he took his coat off the hook but didn’t put his shoes on until he had already left the house, walked down the laneway, opened the gate, stepped through, closed it again and run around the corner, just in case his parents heard the sound of the gravel crunching under his feet and came downstairs to investigate.

In draft 4, Noah’s brother Nat had got the chop. Originally, Noah was the younger of two brothers and, in flashback scenes, the relationship between the two boys was explored. However by this draft, Nat’s presence seemed unnecessary to me and so I deleted him from the story entirely and made Noah an only child.

Published version:

Noah Barleywater left home in the early morning, before the sun rose, before the dogs woke, before the dew stopped falling on the fields.

He climbed out of bed and shuffled into the clothes he’d laid out the night before, holding his breath as he crept quietly downstairs. Three of the steps had a loud creak in them where the wood didn’t knit together correctly so he walked very softly on each one, desperate to make as little noise as possible.

In the hallway, he took his coat off the hook but didn’t put his shoes on until he had already left the house. He walked down the laneway, opened the gate, went through and closed it again, stepping as lightly as he could in case his parents heard the sound of the gravel crunching beneath his feet and came downstairs to investigate.

‘The boy’ now had a name – Noah Barleywater.

See also: John Boyne ReDrafts his new novel, The Absolutist.

Add new comment

Guest

Post as Guest


Showing 1 comment