First, let’s define revision. Jean Karl, in her book, How to Write and Sell Children’s Picture Books says this, “Revision is a “re-vision” of a work—a way to take another look, to see it in another way.” She further explains, “Read your manuscript carefully, looking at it as if you had never seen it before, as if someone else wrote it.”
Ann Whitford Paul, in her book Writing Picture Books says this about revising, “When we revise, the stories evolve, and evolve, and evolve again. That’s one of the pains, and one of the pleasures of writing. Something as simple as substituting one word for another will have ramifications throughout the manuscript.”
I’ve often changed a word or two in my next revision. Then I’ve put it aside for a while before I come back to the story again. My stories have sometimes gone through as many as 20-25 revisions before I feel it is ready to send to an editor or agent.
In Marsha Chall’s break out session on April 26 at the Iowa SCBWI conference, she talked about revising the picture book. She gave us some practical ideas for revision.
1. Make a book dummy. This helps to see where page breaks occur. It also helps to see if there is too much text on a spread or not enough. You can also visualize illustrations for each spread.
2. Reread the beginning and ending of your story. Check to see if they are working.
3. Use/add sensory details to bring your story alive for the reader.
4. See places for the illustrator. Don’t tell in your text what the illustrations can show. This may force you to cut out unnecessary words.
5. Have action on every spread.
6. Get feedback from your writer’s group. Listen to their comments and see if any resonant with you and your vision of the story.
7. Be able to tell someone what your story is about in 1-2 sentences.
Have a go and re-vision your story again. More than likely you will find that missing gem that was needed to make your story shine. With a little hard work, it will come out smooth and polished and be ready to send off to an editor or agent.