If you’ve been writing for any length of time, you know that 90% of writing is actually rewriting. Your initial idea was brilliant but somehow what you got down on paper (on in a computer file) isn’t quite there. Your picture book has a solid plot (fiction) or subject (nonfiction). You’ve got everything there that you need but it is clunky and too long.
How can you make the text sing? Follow these four steps:
Walk Away. If you’ve been working on this manuscript for a while, you need to walk away. And, no, I don’t mean for 15 or 20 minutes. If you don’t have a deadline give yourself a few weeks or a month. When you come back to the manuscript you will see it with fresh eyes. The picture book that I rewrote this weekend started out at 698 words. I managed to cut about 150 or just over 20%. In part I did this by . . .
Making Use of Page Turns. A page turn performs a wonderful function in a picture book. Not only is it a visual break and a chance to surprise the reader, in nonfiction it can also mark a transition to a new topic. Instead of saying “And now we go on to penguins which puke-feed their babies,” you just do it. Obviously, that’s a smarty-pants example and NOT the text from my picture book, but using the page turns did allow me to cut out 7 or 8 transitions of this kind. I also reduced my word count by . . .
Making My Afterword Count. There are so many glorious, wonderful and amazing facts that you find when researching a nonfiction topic. It seems such a pity to leave out the fact that the majority of blood-sharing among vampire bats occurs between females or that veterinarians removed a 4-pound trichobezoar (hairball) from the stomach of a tiger. But sometimes it is necessary both to focus my topic but also to streamline my word count. This tangential but glorious facts can and should go in my afterword.
Read it out loud. Once you have streamlined your text, it is time to turn it into poetry. There are so many ways to make your picture book text fun to read aloud but the only way to be certain that you’ve accomplished this is to actually read it out loud. Do that spread by spread and you can adjust each line for maximum fun.
When your picture book is getting there but still needs one more really solid rewrite, these four tips can help take it from hum-drum to humming along.