by Melissa Stoller
Does the following scenario sound familiar? You write a story. You think, “Wow! This is a fantastic story! I can’t believe my first draft is this good.” Then you read it again the next day. And think, “Wow. This story needs help!” Most manuscripts are truly solidified in the editing process. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind as you dig into your manuscript revisions.
My process for revising picture books can be modified for chapter books, middle grade, and young adult manuscripts as well. As I dig into revisions, I delve into big picture edits, smaller picture issues, and a checklist of considerations.
First, I contend with big picture issues. Is the structure of the story sound? Does it have a strong plot? A memorable character with hopefully endearing and identifying characteristics? Is there a clearly defined story arc with a beginning, middle and end? Does the MC have sufficiently challenging and escalating obstacles to overcome? Does the MC use his or her own agency to overcome those obstacles? Is there enough “heart” in the story? Is the ending satisfying and is there perhaps a nice twist at the end? Throughout the writing and editing process, I also consider whether the idea is sound and marketable as a children’s book.
I also look at smaller picture issues such as: sentence length and structure, grammar, syntax, word choice, wordplay, and figurative language.
Finally, I run through a checklist after all the points above have been visited:
Does the story have a strong opening and ending line?
For picture books specifically, does each scene move the story along? Can the scenes be fully illustrated?
Do the words show and not tell?
Regarding overall word count, is the story within the correct parameters for the genre?
Does the revision require “killing darlings,” meaning cutting words, ideas, scenes, or even characters from the manuscript?
Does the story have a strong hook and can I write a marketable pitch?
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Good luck with your process of brainstorming ideas, writing, and revising. Happy creating!
Melissa Stoller is the author of the chapter book series The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection - Book One: Return to Coney Island and Book Two: The Liberty Bell Train Ride (Clear Fork Publishing, 2017 and 2019); and the picture books Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush and Ready, Set, GOrilla! (Clear Fork, 2018). Upcoming picture books include Return of the Magic Paintbrush and Sadie’s Shabbat Stories (Clear Fork, 2019). She is also the co-author of The Parent-Child Book Club: Connecting With Your Kids Through Reading (HorizonLine Publishing, 2009). Melissa is an Assistant and Blogger for the Children’s Book Academy, a Regional Ambassador for The Chapter Book Challenge, a Moderator for The Debut Picture Book Study Group, and a volunteer with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators/MetroNY. Melissa has worked as a lawyer, legal writing instructor, freelance writer and editor, and early childhood educator. Additionally, she is a member of the Board of Trustees at The Hewitt School and at Temple Shaaray Tefila. Melissa lives in New York City with her husband, three daughters, and one puppy.
We are so excited to be mixing things up at CBA, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome new bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with Clear Fork/Spork editor/art director, former agent and former kidlit professor Mira Reisberg PhD who is also the Director of the Children's Book Academy.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays will feature the fabulous debut author/illustrator Maggie Brown.
And 5th Mondays will feature a surprise reprise from over nine years of archives.