Happy Monday, Everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful weekend!
Mine was full of family, music, super bowl, and birthday cake 🙂 Not too shabby 🙂
I don’t know if you caught the half-time show, but I’ve got to say, Madonna is older than I am but looks way better. (Also, there are those who say she sings better, but the jury’s still out on that one…:)) It may have something to do with the fact that she does dance workouts etc for about 17 hours a day whilst I sit at my computer exercising only my fingers and my passion for birthday cake 🙂 I think I need some legions of Roman soldiers to march around with… and maybe I should wear those thigh-high boots… wouldn’t they just be perfect for vacuuming and driving the kids to soccer? I can just see myself hopping out of the car at the Cumby’s down on the corner to fill up on gas in that outfit… Or maybe strolling into Stop & Shop 🙂
|google images – doesn’t that look exactly like me?
On to today’s news of interest! First, we have Straight From The Editor.
You will recall Margaret’s pitch:
Working Title: Home Is Where The Bird Is
The Pitch: Bird thought he found his perfect birdhouse – until he encountered the mouse living inside. After a feather-raising experience house hunting on his own, Bird asks Mouse for help. Mouse leads Bird on a hilarious tour of unconventional housing options. As winter looms, will Bird accept anything but his perfect birdhouse?
Here are editor Erin Molta’s insightful comments:
Bird found the perfect birdhouse, but Mouse lived inside. After a feather-raising house hunting experience, Bird asks Mouse for help. Mouse leads Bird on a tour of unconventional houses, such as XXXX and XXXX. Will Bird ever find a house that’s the perfect home for him?
I hope you all find this helpful and instructive! 🙂
Next, we have today’s Oh Susanna question!
How long does it take for you to write a book? What’s your process? How many revisions? How do you know when it’s right to submit?
I Don’t Know What I’m Doing
Dear I Don’t Know,
You ask excellent questions to which, I’m afraid, there is no specific or right answer 🙂 The long and the short of it is, the process varies from book to book. (And in the following discussion, I’m sticking to picture books, since that is what I assume you’re referring to.)
But let’s see what I can tell you. It takes me anywhere from a couple hours to a couple months to write a book, on average. (This does not take into account the pre-writing time – the time where I’ve got part of the idea and it’s rolling around in my head but isn’t ready to be formulated into words.)
Once I’ve got enough of the idea formulated to start writing, I usually write out picture books in longhand. I know – so last century – but there’s something about the physical act of writing, the flow of ink on the page, that facilitates my thinking. So first drafts are most often pen and paper.
Once I’ve got a draft, I type it into the computer, and that is always the first revision. The story never goes into the computer exactly as it’s written on the page.
The next part depends on the quality of what I’ve got at this point. Every now and again (rarely!) I get it close to right the first time and the story doesn’t need too much revision. But most times it needs quite a bit. I ALWAYS come in at too high a word count, so there is always cutting to be done. It takes a few tries to see how I can cut without losing my story – and in fact, hopefully, make it stronger. Usually this part of the process helps me to make sure I’m actually telling the story I mean to be telling (or that I know exactly what my main theme, or the point of my story is.) The number of revisions can vary from 1 to 20 or more.
When I’ve got it as good as I think I can make it, I PUT IT AWAY for at least a week or two. This is a VERY important part of the process, because right when I first finish I always think this story is the best thing I’ve ever written and there’s likely to be a huge bidding war over it along with fierce fighting for movie rights 🙂 At this euphoric stage, my judgement is completely unreliable, and sending anything out in that frame of mind is a huge mistake… as I will realize when I take that story back out in a couple weeks… at which point I will wonder how I can have the unmitigated gall to call myself a writer at all and will seriously consider going to get a job at Stop & Shop bagging groceries!
Point being… always give your story a rest and then go back to it fresh. You will usually see things you can make better.
As to when it’s ready to go out on submission, unfortunately there’s no exact answer. Generally, you will have a gut feeling that it’s ready and there’s nothing more you can do that’s really going to improve it significantly. (You can tweak forever, but there comes a point where you’re not really improving anything, you’re just messing around.) But here are some things to ask yourself to see if you’re ready: Have you told the story you want to tell? Have you created a character we can care about, challenged him/her with something important and relevant, and resolved the problem in a satisfying way? Is every word the best choice you can make for it? Have you read it out loud to yourself, your toddler, your husband, your dog, and anyone else who will listen? Have you had someone who has never seen it read it out loud to you? (Often, especially with rhyme, this is crucial to make sure the story flows well.) Have you had a couple beta readers or critique partners look it over? Is the language lyrical, rhythmic, asking to be read over and over? Does your story have re-readability (i.e. will a child want to hear it many times and will an adult be happy to oblige?) Have you left half the job for the illustrator and given him/her plenty to work with?
If you have done all these things and feel that the story is the best you can make it, then it’s ready to go. And sometimes the submission process itself will give you feedback. 20 form rejections in a row for the same story may mean it needs more work (or that you haven’t targeted your ms properly, but that’s a topic for another day!) Rejections with any kind of personal feedback are a good sign and something you can learn from. And of course, hopefully!, you will get an acceptance! 🙂
If you write a strong story that feels more like a one-time read (fun once, but unlikely to be asked for over and over) or that doesn’t have a lot of scope for illustration, you may have a magazine piece rather than a picture book. That is great, too. Not every story is strong enough for a picture book, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good story. So make sure you have a children’s magazine market list of some type so you can target those stories too.
I hope that answers your questions at least somewhat! I hope our esteemed readers will also chime in with their answers to your questions!
Before going off to scrub the bathroom tile grout with a tooth brush whilst wearing my Madonna boots, I just want to remind everyone about the upcoming Valentines Day Contest!!! If you haven’t heard of it yet, click here and scroll to the bottom!!!
See you Wednesday! 🙂