My shortest picture book manuscript is something like 150 words. The longest was 1200, but I’ve got it down to 750. As simple as these stories are, it is amazing that take so many rewrites to get right. What isn’t amazing is that with this much work and so few words, we often get discouraged and quit before we finish.
I find that the biggest motivator for me to work on something is an external deadline like a contract, a critique group meeting, and even a writing challenge.
Last week, I took part in Revimo 2015. In the course of this challenge, I did four rewrites. I also read about the rewrites other people were doing. A picture book rewrite can consist of:
Firming up or changing the format.
Reworking back matter.
Reordering sentences for greater impact.
Adding a chorus.
Changing from prose to rhyme or vice versa.
Changing the POV character.
Adding sidebars in a nonfiction text.
Adding picture book language other than rhyme — assonance, onomatopoeia or another type of word play.
Cutting out a character that doesn’t do enough.
Changing the ending so that the main character solves the story problem.
Trimming excess words.
Deleting visual descriptions (color, etc.).
Replacing ho hum verbs with the specific and exciting.
Correcting forced rhyme and faulty rhythm.
Changing the setting.
Using a dummy to check pacing.
With so many ways to improve a picture book manuscript, it really isn’t surprising that writing and rewriting something so short can take so many drafts. Now, if you will excuse me, I need to read my manuscript out loud to check the sound of my sentences.