The back and forth

I spent a few days writing a rough draft of a picture book manuscript, then switched over to the novel, adding some tweaks and flashback scenes suggested by one of my writer friends (who very kindly agreed to read the whole thing and give me feedback). It’s interesting going from one to the other — almost an exercise in opposites.

What the novel has most needed is additional description and context, including those flashback scenes, which are helping a lot to humanize one of the main characters (frankly she needed some humanizing). The scenes have been awfully fun to write too. I have a tendency to literally make things up as I go along, so writing these extra scenes down is giving me a chance to get to know my characters a little better. I keep going “Of course this happened, I should’ve known.” As though they hadn’t told me these things before now.

Picture books, given that they have, well, pictures, don’t need everything spelled out. In fact they need very little spelled out. They’re minimalist; every word counts. When I revise my manuscripts, I’m subtracting words, not adding them. It’s most like writing a poem. Which makes sense because my favorite picture books all sound like poems. Exhibit A: “Where the Wild Things Are,” which, after growing up with it and then reading it to my own kids, I can recite from memory.

Side note: How much fun would a poetry reading be if the poetry were children’s books? Somebody make this happen.

It’s funny how piling up the words, or scrubbing out the words, can make such a difference either way. Good practice, I think.


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