One of the first authors I fell in love with was Mark Twain. I had a book of his short stories that I read over and over and over… So, I was really excited when Caramel Tree asked me to write a condensed version of THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER for second language learners. Reading this book again after — let’s say many, many years — was a real pleasure. The characters were like old friends that I hadn’t seen in awhile. The only difference was that they hadn’t aged, and I have!
But that isn’t really true. As an older reader, Tom Sawyer is quite different than how I remember him. Twain has a delicious way of sneaking in details that as a writer I see but as a young reader I glossed over. Rereading the courtship of Tom and Becky, especially Tom’s spying on her on the porch, was picture perfect. I could see this brash boy gone bashful in every sentence.
The plotting was also much richer than I remember. How the missing treasure, Tom’s relationship with his aunt, Huck’s dire home circumstances, a murder, a thrilling court trial, etc. all come together to evoke this small town is simply genius. Throw in scenes set in graveyards, on deserted islands, and in dark caves. There’s love. There’s redemption. Wow.
So, how does an author go about taking this treasure and condensing it to the essence? I decided the best path was to reread the original then sit down and write the story as if I was telling it to a child. Straight through. No going back to look up details or check facts. What I discovered was this method let me get to the core of the story: the main characters, main plot, and theme.
Once I had the first draft, I went back to smooth and pick up important details I had missed. Condensing a book means losing some characters and scenes. This is hard. Simplifying language and sentence structure takes away some of the voice of the original. But in the end I am quite pleased with the result.
I suggest everyone read the original book. But if you have a younger reader that wants a good read, you can find my version by searching under my name at major book outlets. Available May 1.
Wow, what a challenging assignment. They picked the right person to tackle it!
I’ll have to go back and re-read some of those classics to see what “young Linda” missed!
Hi Cyndy! Your blog is a pleasure and delight. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is one of my favorites, though I never ventured into reading it when I was younger. If any writer could condense this story and still allow it to keep it’s magic, is you! Well done!
I sometimes don’t like to re-read things that were magical to me because I don’t want them to lose that. Does that make sense? There are sacred books I’ll never read again for fear they won’t touch me the same. (Just ones that hit me at really powerful moments in my life)
On that note, I’ve found that most of the books I’ve reread as an adult, I notice so much more and appreciate them! I can’t wait to read this, Cyndy. And I love the look of the blog.
Thanks, Heidi. I can’t think of an example of a book I loved then was disappointed when I read it again. What book would you be scared to read again?
This was fascinating to read about the process about condensing a book. Tom Sawyer is one of my favorite–I still remember discovering it and being awed at the richness of the language and the plot. What a wonderful thing that this great story will be used to teach ESL students! Kudos on the fine work!
Hi Jenni! I see on your blog that you are into historical fiction — keep watching cause I’ve got an upper MG historical fiction coming out in February. And you’ve been to Ukraine! My current historical fiction on the market is set there!