Yesterday, I mentioned that I am participating in ReviMo 2014 this week. ReviMo is a picture book revision challenge. As participating writers revise picture book manuscripts they can register to win prizes.
Prizes are good, but I’m doing it as a way to schedule some revision time. The rules specify that all revisions must the substantial, reaffirming that this is a time for “new vision,” not copy editing.
Here is some of what I plan to do as I revision various manuscripts:
1. Remove and replace spreads. When I drafted one particular manuscript on animal coloration, the editor asked me to include spreads on how humans use coloration. I’ve never loved these two spreads so I’m going to get rid of them but that will mean adding replacement spreads. This will give me a chance to expand on several ideas hinted at in the manuscript.
2. Alter the narrative style. One of my manuscripts is a straight forward narrative. That may work for most things but this is an early-elementary astronomy text. In showing the constancy of how the solar system works, the text gets very repetitive. Darcy Pattison suggested that I take advantage of the necessary repetition by recreating the manuscript as a cumulative text. You could also take a rhyming text and recreate it as prose or weave in a chorus of some kind.
3. Fine-tune characters. I must admit, that I’ve never had to add characters to a picture book but I have had to remove characters who just don’t carry enough weight. I’ve also had to deepen my characterization. Working up character sketches can help you get to know your character, a reality that will come through in the story even if you don’t use all the details you’ve discovered.
4. Illustration possibilities. A picture book has to offer the illustrator the chance to create varied art work. Not only does something have to happen on each spread (think action), but you also need changes in setting, characters and emotion. I generally do okay with characters and emotion but have to force myself to add settings to the story, or at least alter my settings so that there is a greater visual difference between Point A and Point B.
5. Word play. A picture book is meant to be read aloud. This means that it has to actually be fun to read aloud and one way to do this is through word play. If you don’t use any kind of word play, consider adding a chorus, playing with consonance and assonance or onomatopoeia.
What do you look at when you revise a picture book text?