One Writer’s Journey

January 17, 2014

Rewriting — One spread at a time

picture book textOne of the great things about using a picture book dummy is that is helps you to evaluate your text one spread at a time.  When you do this, you can read for:

Garbage words.  Do you have useless words in your text?  If so, throw them out.  For some rewriters, these are words like that, start, and begin.  Make your text as tight as it can be.  Some writers will say cut by 30%.  Others say 50%.  It may sound like a lot, but give it a try.  A picture book needs to be tight!

Specific verbs.  You’ve given your illustrators an action to illustrate.  Excellent.  Now make sure you’ve used the most specific verb possible.  Don’t say your character walked if you can use scamper, trudge or dance.  Each paints a very different picture.

Sensory details.  The illustrator is responsible for visual details, but that leaves smell, taste, sound and how something feels.  Use them to pull the reader into your story world.

Readability.  Don’t forget that picture books are meant to be read aloud.  How is that reflected in your text?  Perhaps you have a chorus.  Even if your text doesn’t rhyme, it you can use rhythm.  There’s also the word play of assonance and onomotopeia.  Play and have fun and your reader will too.

When I try to edit a picture book manuscript, I often find myself paying close attention to the first ten or so lines and then quickly reading through the rest, assuring myself that everything is fine.  When I paste my text into a dummy, I am able to look at just a few lines at a time.  I find that this improves my focus as I ask myself, “Is this spread magical?”  If not, I have work to do.



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