Friday, March 16, 2012

4 . . . . 3 . . . 2 . . . 1

Week of March 11, 2012—20 Tips for Great Picture Book Manuscripts
Friday, March 16, 2012—4 . . . 3 . . . 2 . . . 1

Yes, revision and editing are two different things. Revision deals with the meat of your writing. Revision is tough work—sometimes it takes a scalpel, sometimes a butcher knife, sometimes a chain saw, and sometimes a sledge hammer. During revision you look for continuity, flow, sense, plot, and so on. I teach my students a revision strategy that I often use with my picture book manuscripts. (It’s less effective with longer works.) I call it “cut-and-tape revision.” Student writers (and many adult writers) hate to start over, so this method allows them to use what they have and add to it. Here’s the process in a nutshell. Read through your writing, when you see where something needs to be added, stop. Cut that part off of your writing, tape it down to a new sheet of paper, and add in the new section of text. Then you simply re-tape the rest of your writing back into place. You can also juggle sections in your writing this way . . . cut, move things around, and then tape things back together. Warning: You will end up with a l-o-n-g sheet of paper, but that can easily be used to type your changes into your manuscript. Find the revision method that works for you and go for it. Learn more about revision at:

When you’ve written, edited, and revised your picture book manuscript, you begin to feel as if you’re finished. But you’re not. Next, you need to make a dummy of the book. Illustrators use the dummy to show their “draft” of art as well as text. Authors who aren’t illustrators make a dummy of their book to see where page turns will come, to see if they have too much or too text, to see if the beginning is to long and the middle too short, etc. Authors who aren’t illustrators make the dummy for themselves—not for an editor or illustrator. The dummy is our way of seeing if we’ve got the text “right” before going any further. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve revised a story once I’d dummied up the book. Diane Muldrow, editor at Golden Books/Random House, says to choose a favorite book and to use that as the model for your dummy. Staple paper together to form the needed pages, number them, see where the text begins in the book you chose as your model, and begin to cut and tape your manuscript into the pages. This is trial and error—you’ll change things many times. No worries. Remember, the dummy is for YOU! Read a bit more about making a picture book dummy at:

I cannot tell you how important this step is. Others must read your writing. You must hear others read your writing aloud. Then, and only then, can you actually know what works and what doesn’t work with a manuscript. The community of picture book writers is a friendly and helpful one. Find a critique group (or form one of your own), participate regularly, and learn to give and receive critiques. What most of us find is that we’re able to locate problems in the manuscripts of others long before we’re able to recognize those same problems in our own writing. You also join a critique group for camaraderie and support. I love my critique groups and I wouldn’t write without them. The links below will help you learn more about critiquing and critique groups:

Yes, we spent all last week talking about pitching your book. The pitch is the synopsis or summary that you will include with your cover letter when you mail/email your manuscript to editors and agents. Don’t wait to write your pitch at the last minute. Put time and effort into it so it shines. Theoretically, an editor or agent could stop reading once they see your pitch. So make the pitch enticing, accurate, and appealing. Below are links to last week’s posts about pitches.


Leslie Gorin said...

Great week of tips, Rob! Thanks for sharing them.

Rob Sanders said...

Thanks, Leslie!