Monday, August 15, 2011

Three ways I revised a PB story

Last week, I finalized revisions of a picture book manuscript I wrote for a retreat I attended in July. The retreat offered through the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators was awesome.

Author Linda Ashman led the picture book workshops. I love reading her books. Her new one No Dogs Allowed! illustrated by Kristin Sorra released on Aug. 2. On Ashman's site, she has a post about how she wrote the nearly-wordless picture book and you can download her manuscript. Very helpful.

Since I didn't know what I was doing before the retreat, I decided to invest in a post-retreat critique.

I applied Ashman's tips and techniques from the retreat classes to my manuscript before I submitted it for critique.

  • I wrote it from a different point of view. My third person turned into first person, but I didn't like the feel of the story.
  • I rewrote it in prose, not rhyme. It's been decades since I studied meter. So, I checked out several books on writing poetry from the library. I'm studying them in baby steps. I didn't like the story in prose, so I returned to rhyme. 
  • I removed some repeating phrases. I added them in again. Then, deleted them.

During the retreat, participants broke into small groups. I received lots of feedback from my group. In general, members liked my story idea, but not the execution — bad rhyme.

Ashman is a super rhymer. She addressed some crimes of rhyme at the retreat. I am guilty, guilty, guilty. Thankfully, no one will put me in jail for bad rhyme. No one will want to read my story either, so I recognize I have a problem and am working to address it.

I lost track of the number of revisions I did post-retreat. I asked my nine-year-old niece to be a beta reader. When I asked a specific question, there was a pause. She decided to regroup and read it again. More feedback followed.

The book editor's critique will arrive in about a month. In the meantime, I've worked on a first draft of another picture book idea. This one — written in prose and first person. Plus, I'll attend a local SCBWI chapter meeting and critique group.

I still don't know completely what I'm doing, but I am studying, reading and trying.

How do you revise your work?


  1. Great post! Oh please do share what constituted a bad rhyme! I would LOVE to know (because I'm sure that I do it- I'm just campy that way ;)

    How do I revise my work?
    did I say slowly?

  2. wow, sounds like you got a lot out of the retreat. Fantastic.

    I'm with Shelly. Revisions take time and perseverance.

  3. I hope you got to check out the picture book workshops at WriteOnCon!


  4. Hey Small Town Shelly Brown, my weird project really got me behind. One example of my bad rhyme, ... somehow thinking that again & windowpane would really work. A friend suggested perhaps I was trying to channel my "southern roots." I also "forced" a sentence to attempt a rhyme that included quicker and snickered. :0 Yes. Lynda they take time. Debbie, trying to catch up on the picture book sessions now.

  5. Hey, Stacy! So glad the retreat was helpful, and that you'll be getting more feedback on your story after all that hard work revising it. And yes, luckily no one gets jailed for crimes of rhyme, and I'm proof that we all can be reformed. Good luck with it!

  6. Isn't Linda Ashman amazing? I've been lucky enough to work with her twice - once at a workshop and once at a writing retreat. She is a MASTER of rhyme and so nice.

    I write in rhyme too, and it takes lots and lots and lots of practice and many revisions to get it right.

  7. Julie, I agree. Linda is a MASTER of rhyme and nice. I'm in the beginning stages and working on lots and lots of revisions.

  8. Hi Stacy,
    It's lovely to find your blog and a fellow picture book lover! It sounds like the retreat was a valuable experience and loads of fun too!

    Rhyme is so incredibly hard. I can't tell you how many times I've had to revise a picture book ms that I thought would be best in rhyme. I swore
    I 'd never write in rhyme again but if you can get the rhyme right, gee it sounds good.

  9. Renee, Isn't it funny how some ideas arrive in rhyme and you can't get away from it. I wrote a draft in prose for another idea the other day. Much easier to create a draft. Once I get the editor feedback on the rhyme one, I'll get back to more revisions. Julie Hedlund writes really good rhyme (she posted above She's a good picture book writer to follow and learn from.


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