A step by step description of
how a Levelty course is created
The new intermediate level Levelty course is under way, the work process has begun. Would you like to know how it is made? How we decide what the story will be? Or how we agree on the grammar items to teach? Join me in this step-by-step description.
This is a real-time report, so come back again and again to see where we are in the process.
Planning the course
Approx. 1 month
The very first step is planning. What do we plan?
1. We choose the topic of the story that the course will be built on. In this new course, the story will be from the world of work. Do you know why? Because we asked you in a questionnaire about your purpose of learning English. Many of you answered: “Because I need English for my job.”
2. The storyline is also decided. OK, the story will be set in the world of work. But it must be exciting, too! We need to keep you motivated throughout this Levelty course, so an exciting world needs to be created with lifelike characters, who love, hate and have many probems. It’s too early to tell you much about the storyline of the new course, but I can tell you one little secret: it is set in the near future, when the weather is controlled…
3. There is one more important thing that we agree on at the very beginning of the process: the level of the story and what grammar items we want to teach you. This new course will be at level B2, and has a very special concept as for grammar. We will show you not only separate grammar items but also a wider view of the system of the English language. Most coursebooks do not have this.
Planning the story in detail
Approx. 1 month
The next step is to plan the story and its elements in detail, to create a synopsys. If somebody reads the synopsys, they should get a clear idea about what the novel will be like.
A Levelty story must be fun to read, giving you a flow experience. This is where the process starts to get complicated. There are so many things that a writer must decide:
1. The outline of the story is the main thing that must be set in the synopsys. A beginning, a conflict and a resolution has to be defined with all the important steps between them.
2. Who will be the narrator of the story? The main character, who will tell the story from his point of view in first person singular? An outsider who knows all the characters equally? A person from the story or outside the story?
3. What’s the perspective of the story? Is it through the glasses of the main character? Or the antagonist? Or the narrator? Just think about it. The story of Snow White must sound very different from the point of view of the stepsisters – or the prince.
4. The style, how the story is told, is more important than you would think. This is what creates that special atmosphere and a world you can see in front of your mind’s eye.
A novel is a long story, which needs to have a consistent style. But each characters must have their own style! You should recognise them by what they are saying and how they say it.
Ironic? Romantic? Philosophical? Casual or formal? The writer needs to find just the right balance.
Approx. 2 months
Sometimes, the writer (in this case I, Kisanna) cannot decide all the elements of a book without experiments. It is useful to write a scene from different points of view, in different styles, and just see which one works best.
Once all the basics have been decided, the actual writing process can begin. Which, again, can happen in many ways.
When I was writing the Hidden Movements story, I did it chapter by chapter. I planned the chapter and wrote it down, and already edited myself as I was writing. Before writing the next chapter, I edited it over and over, till it was 95% done. It was a linear process.
With the new intermediate novel, I am not working linearly. I have the storyline in my head and when I have the inspiration for a scene, I write it down. The first scene I wrote down was the very first, opening scene. But the second one was well into the conflict. Then I went back to the beginning and then jumped to the end with the next one. So when I think of something, I write it down. I want the story to just flow out first. No editing. No deciding where the end of chapters will be, no elaboration of details. I don’t think twice about things, I write everything down as it comes out. I don’t try to hit the best style for the first trial, I don’t think about selecting the finest words. I just want to get the story and ideas out of my head, rough as they are. Like this, the next work phase will probably be the most exciting of all.
Approx. 6 weeks
Once I have a big mass of text, with the story roughly ready, I can start working on “making it look like something”. The first draft is just like a bucket of muddy water and the novel needs to be like crystal clear drinking water in a beautifully shaped container.
First of all, I have to look at all the scenes I have and make an order. In the case of the new intermediate novel, I realised that the beginning was too long, for example. My hero discussed his problem (the starting point of the conflict) with three people and with himself. This took up two and a half chapters! So I threw out two dialogues, almost 10 pages. To the bin with it!
Once the scenes are more or less in place, I need to define where chapters start and finish. If this wasn’t a Levelty novel, I would do this later. But as I need to concentrate on integrating grammar items in the chapters, I have to do it at an earlier stage. I don’t set these in stone, but I need an outline.
Then comes editing, editing, editing. This needs a cold heart, sometimes to the level of cruelty. No matter how much I wanted to have a certain scene, if it doesn’t go well with the flow of the story, I need to delete it. No matter how much I liked a character, if I find that such a personality would not do things I wrote down, I need to change either the person or the things they do.
During the second draft, I also have to make sure that the timeline works, that I don’t write a summer scene in the middle of winter happenings, for example. There are so many changes to make that sometimes I almost cry.
In this phase, characters gain more life, and this is very exciting. By this time, I feel the way they move, the way they talk, and I integrate it in the text. What they say stays more or less the same, but I work a lot on how they say it. When writing is going well, I don’t have to figure this out. They come to life in front of my mind’s eye and I just have to listen. Listen well and then write it down. Things like this make a writer happy.
In the first draft, I had a few dialogues with no context: there was no setting involved. It is so much fun to give body to dialogues like this!
As you can see, writing the second draft can make me very emotional. This is the phase where it all turns out: will this be a good read or not? Will it be a whole? Will readers see what you see? Will characters, places be “alive”? Writers do their best 🙂
Approx. 4 weeks
Writing – Phase 3.
Finally, the text is starting to look like something! There is a flow, there is consistency and finally the atmosphere I was striving to create is there.
This workphase is quite enjoyable because now I know that my work was not in vain and the story is actually going to be finished. Such a relief! However, I must keep a very strong focus here in three different areas.
1. This is the time for finishing touches on the characters and the context. As a reader, you don’t realise enough how important two-three words can be to create an atmosphere. Take a look:
He was angry with him, but he didn’t show it. He gave him the cup of coffee.
His eyes twitched as he was looking at him, trying to keep a straight face. He gave him his cup of coffee with his shiny steel robotic hand.
You see the difference, right?
2. I have to make the text even tighter. I make small corrections of style and consistency. It still happens in this phase that I delete or add a whole paragraph, but the main focus is on “greasing” the text, giving it good rythm and making it as accurate as possible.
3. As I’m doing this, I also have to make sure that the text contains enough examples of the grammar issue it is about. I usually have to add more examples than there already are, in an organic way.
Once all this is done, Edit checks the chapters. Her main focus is the grammar – she tells me if I haven’t added enough of something. She also makes sure that the level of the text (intermediate, in this case) is constant – there aren’t too difficult or advanced phrases. It is much easier for her to see this than it is for me. I am too invested in the story itself. Every time I start rereading, I soon realise that I’m lost in the story, and the wording 🙂
When I have incorporated Edit’s suggestions, the text is ready to fly over to the proofreader’s mailbox.
Approx. 1 month
Why is it essentially important to have a proofreader check the text before a novel is published?
First of all, when someone writes something, they see the text over and over again, and so they get used to it. Because they are used to it, they don’t spot every little mistake. A proofreader looks at the text with fresh eyes.
Furthermore, a proofreader’s job is to spot every spelling, grammar and stylistic mistake. They have trained themselves to have the sharpest eyes possible when it comes to texts and they have a refined, literary level knowledge of the English language, so they know perfectly what is accurate and what isn’t.
Our proofreader is an experienced professional in demand, she has so much work! She has many other tasks apart from checking the new Levelty novel. This is why it takes her about a month to finish.
2 x half a day +
about 2,5 hours/lesson
Sound recording is one of the most exciting parts of creating a Levelty course. It is so exhilarating to hear the story presented by a professional actor! In the case of the intermediate novel, it was a true relief. Dialogues were rolling, characters were alive! Of course this is also thanks to Alexis Latham, our experienced and intuitive British actor.
It is the first time for Edit and me to engage in the story like you, the learner will. Before this phase, we only deal with fragments of the story at a time, but at the recording, we can feel the flow of the story as it is, as you will feel it when you learn with it. We giggle (= laugh quietly), we feel the tension or we are touched.
When we make the sound recording, both I and Edit go to the studio with the actor. We both listen very carefully – I, primarily am responsible for the characters’ tone to be right (but Alexis feels them so well). We both listen very carefully as we follow the text, making sure that Alexis reads exactly what is written down. Edit operates the recording programme and she is responsible for the quality of the recording from all aspects (noise, volume, dynamics, etc.).
We want you to have an audiobook of excellent quality. This is why we work with a real actor and make the recording with professional tools at a sound studio (B.M.S. Technika).
Once the raw material is there, Edit gets to work. She knows a lot about sound editing, it runs in her family. She learnt about it in an organic way – by spending time with her father, who has been in the music industry all his life. First, she has to edit the material – cut out parts where Alexis’ tongue got tied, or chose from two versions of intonation or tone. Secondly, she edits the audio material with filters and effects to make it more lifelike and exciting. A 10-12-minute audio material needs about 2-3 hours of editing work. We can’t wait for you to hear the results!
Approx. 5 days / lesson
Making the lessons is very serious work, and very rewarding. We want to give you comprehensive yet fun lessons that are easy to understand and that you remember in the long term.
Firstly, Edit creates the digital background she uploads the template we created with the design of the specific course.
Then the text of the respective part of the novel is uploaded and Edit highlights the grammar items in it and inserts the definitions of the new words. She also uploads the sound file to the page.
A lesson comprises of
1. reading/listening/comprehension section,
2. vocabulary section,
3. grammar section,
4. pronounciation section.
I always create the comprehension exercises, and the pronunciation videos are Edit’s task. We alternate doing the vocab and the grammar section: one week Edit does the vocab section and I do the grammar, the next week we change.
With the vocabulary, we always give definitions at the level of the course. We add meaningful photos wherever we can, and it is a high priority for us to give you exciting and lifelike example sentences (apart from the ones in the novel, of course).
Writing the grammar section is the greatest challenge in lesson making. We want to teach grammar in a way that you truly understand it, but at the same time, see the place of this item in real life. We discuss thoroughly to come up with the best possible explanations. We think the design is important too. Not only because it’s easier to stay on a website that looks nice, but also because design is structure. Good design will keep you engaged and it will help you understand.
Approx. 2 weeks
We take pride in being able to mail you a beautiful hardcover book with the story in it.
Yes, you have the story digitally. Yes, the whole course is online. But the love of books refers to the actual object as well, the feel of the book in your hands, the noise of turning the pages, the smell of the printed pages…
Don’t you love it, too? That’s why we make sure you get your book. It is nice to have the whole story all in one, in a beautiful, classic form. When you’ve done the course and already know everything in it, you can reread the story in the book – this time you don’t have to wait for the next lesson to arrive, you don’t have to open and close lessons, hold your laptop. You can just lie back and enjoy the story in its pure form.
In this phase, the work is our graphic designer’s. She makes a cover plan by the time we start sending you the lessons. Then she has to create the spine and the back cover of the book, too, and vectorise it. That means she has to calculate with the width of the cover, too, otherwise the design would not be centered.
Then, she has to do the inlay. She has to find the right font (type of letter) and she has to organise the sentences into the pages. She has to make sure that there is no one-line or one-word page, for example. She has to number the pages, too.
We send her all the necessary info and then she has to add that to the front and the back of the book.
Then the files go to the print house and the books come out from the machine in a few days.
If you give it a go and reread the novel, you can be sure that what you’ve learnt will stay with you even more effectively.
to be continued...
A bejegyzés szerzője
Szabó Kisanna vagyok. Az angol egészen kicsi korom óta az életem szerves része, csakúgy, mint az irodalom, az írás: irodalmár-nyelvtanár családból származom, s örököltem mind az érdeklődést, mind a motivációt. Éltem és tanultam az USA-ban és Nagy-Britanniában, számos nemzetközi művészeti és oktatási projektben dolgoztam - angolul.
A nyelvismeret átadásával az emberek kezébe hasznos eszközt adok, ezért is szeretek tanítani. A mondás nagyon találó, hogy „ahány nyelvet beszélsz, annyi ember vagy”. Hiszek az élményszerű nyelvoktatásban - ennek is köszönhetem kiváló eredményeimet és azt, hogy az óráim kitűnő hangulatban telnek. A leveltybooks-szal mindenki számára elérhető, izgalmas, érdekes, ugyanakkor tartós eredményeket hozó módját kínáljuk az angoltanulásnak – a nyelvtanulást, olvasásélményt egyesítve.