Just before the holidays I received an email with some wonderful, thought-provoking suggestions from my editor for a new picture book manuscript. Here’s a fun tidbit: The manuscript was 515 words. Her email? 769 words, not counting the salutation and closing :-).
I point this out because a lot of times new writers believe that shorter means less work. Sometimes that’s true, but sometimes it isn’t. To be fair, even though her email was longer than my manuscript, her comments only pointed to a few things, with suggestions for how to approach it. She did a great job of providing examples to help guide me, but kept it pretty broad overall and covering two basic areas: amping up the humor in a few places and expanding my concept/theme. Like any good editor, she left the details up to me. My first attempt was okay, but felt lacking so I’m tackling it again.
The moral of this short tale (223 words): Be prepared to revise once a manuscript is accepted. Be open to ideas, but if your vision is different, don’t be afraid to express it. It’s a collaboration, one designed to create the best possible story.
With the help of my fabulous agent, I am now able to see what I might do to improve the story and can’t wait to get back to it.
I think it is important to remember that the books are called “Picture” Books for a reason. Yes of course our story is important too. As a writer who couldn’t draw a picture to save her life, I’m happy for that. We writers are the impetus and the illustrators are the ones who carry it out. Not sure if that makes any sense.
You are SO right! I recently had a wonderful conversation on this very topic with another writer. Like you, I welcome the vision of a gifted illustrator to complete/enhance the story and want to make sure s/he gets the best story possible with which to work. Sometimes it’s hard for writers to give up the movie they have playing in their heads–the images for the book that they are convinced must be there. But that’s the magical part for me and I can’t wait to see what happens with this story in terms of illustrations! Happy writing…
You’re entirely right–writing short is often harder than writing long. Each word has to do double or triple duty.
So glad I’m not the only one! I do know some writers who are so good at writing picture books (and don’t write novels) that they find it easier. 🙂
I was one of those people who thought picture books would be easy to write. OH WOW! SO wrong. But I love working on them anyway. I love your post. It’s funny how nearly wordless picture books are, but how wordy we are talking about them. 😀 Thanks Denise!
I was there too, Meg! “Look how short they are! So (deceptively) simple.” But once you really start to study and learn the craft, it’s amazing how much there is to a picture book, which makes it exciting. I loved your comment about how wordy we can be when talking about picture books versus how many words are actually in them – so true :-). Keep writing! I’m going to go check out your blog…
Thanks for sharing this. It’s a great reminder that the work goes on and on and on like the Energizer Bunny.
So true…hope you have a great 2014. Please keep me posted on all you are doing!