CONGRATULATIONS! You made it through the first day of #ReVISIONweek! We hope you had some quality BIC (butt in chair), or SD (standing desk) time yesterday.
And now, get ready for Day 2!
Today’s post is by our very own Picture Book Mechanic. Lynne Marie is always offering a helping hand, sage writing wisdom, and industry support. Lynne is the author of many books as listed below, including her brand-new book Moldilocks and the 3 Scares — illustrated by David Rodriguez Lorenzo (Sterling, 2019), which is funny and adorable! We just know her tips will pave the way to fantastic revision work today!
So, let’s go!
By Lynne Marie
Think of your manuscript as a car.
Of course, you want to get your car out of the garage, up and running, and on that road to success where it may take you far!
But if your car is broken down or missing parts, it won’t run.
Don’t give up — most every problem is fixable.
Here’s What to Do
- Roll up your sleeves (be ready to work).
- Read the manual (read books on craft, books in the same genre).
- Inspect the body for problems from all directions (with open eyes and objectivity).
- Start the car and listen to what the car is telling you (read it aloud).
- Pass it by a formal inspection (critique group or paid critique).
- Make a list of concerns.
- One by one, start tinkering away.
I critique a good amount of manuscripts per week, even per day. You would be surprised at how many have the same issues. So here are some important factors to consider as you revise.
- Is the chassis stable? (Is the Structure sound).
If not, try installing these components.
- Do you have a likeable, but flawed main character?
- Is the character a child, or a character with child-like qualities?
- Does the character have a compelling problem?
- Are the Character and Problem relatable to children?
- Is there little, if any, adult interference?
- Does the character attempt to solve his/her own problem?
- Do the attempts increase and are there emotional responses to the failures?
- Is there white space in the manuscript and room for the illustrator?
- Is there a deep, dark moment where all hope seems lost?
- Does the flaw, if possible, somehow play a part in the resolution?
- Is the resolution satisfying and a result of the character’s actions?
- Is it geared toward the right driver? (Age Group)
If not, get in touch with your 6-year- old self. With the exception of some “exceptions,” the main character is a child or has child-like qualities, so an adult POV, if any, should be minimal.
- Have you installed the right parts, or do you have extra parts installed that hamper the running? Have you used the right gas? (Language/Text)
Are you using active verbs (not passive like was/is/has/had/have, etc.) and strong nouns? Is it overly wordy? Are you describing things that should be left to the art? Are you stacking prepositional phrases and making sentences long and diluting the visual impact of them? Remember, less is more and you should always convey a line in as few words as possible.
If a line doesn’t speak to characterization or move the story forward, it usually isn’t right for the story (even if you think it’s a bright/shiny part). If the line doesn’t point anywhere, or veers off the path, you risk losing the reader. Every single line must prod the plot toward its final destination – a satisfying resolution.
This is just one way approach your revisions this week. I truly do hope that I have helped you to make your car (manuscript) run better and further than you ever thought it might!
Lynne Marie is the author of Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten – illustrated by Anne Kennedy (Scholastic, 2011), Hedgehog’s 100th Day of School – illustrated by Lorna Hussey (Scholastic, January 2017), The Star of the Christmas Play — illustrated by Lorna Hussey (Beaming Books, 10/16/2018), Moldilocks and the 3 Scares — illustrated by David Rodriguez Lorenzo (Sterling, 2019) and her first non-fiction picture book, Let’s Eat! Mealtime Around the World — illustrated by Parwinder Singh (Beaming Books, 2019) and more forthcoming. She’s represented by Deborah Warren of East West Literary Agency. When she’s not cruising around the world, she lives on a lake in South Florida with her family, a Schipperke named Anakin and several resident water birds. She runs a Critique and Mentoring Service at www.ThePictureBookMechanic.com and is a Travel Agent at www.PixieVacations.com/Lynne. You can learn more about her at www.LiterallyLynneMarie.com.