Thursday, April 14, 2011

From First Draft to a Finished Work...

I recently submitted a post (Princess Philippa Potts) for another blog, a story, a less-than-500-word story.

As I debated on what story to submit, I was tortured by the decision to either submit a tried and true (workshopped and polished) work, or to go with a new piece that is just emerging as a story. I chose the newer work - mainly because it forced me to put some effort into it.

Now I regret that decision.

Oh, the agony!!! Crap, I even have typos in there!!! (sorry if I offend, but dang it, I'm pissed!)
Every night after working on a piece, I am filled with hope and great expectations. But by morning, when I do a re-read, I am mortified! To think that I thought there was any merit whatsoever in that piece of junk. I re-work through out the day. And then it's a repeat. Until, after months and months--50 plus beta readers and over 100 revisions--I almost have something I dare call a manuscript.

All of this for a mere picture book.

Bear with me, I'm leading up to something.

My main problem with putting out (posting) a rough work is that a lot of people don't realize that every writer is entitled to a crappy first draft. A work that is still in it's jammies, hasn't even gotten dressed yet, let alone put on make-up. A work that is riddled with bumps and fits and starts, certainly not seamless and polished. Aaaarrgghh!

If we could only see the first drafts of what ended up to be some great works, we might feel a bit better about our own first drafts.

It comes down to this, a librarian is almost like being a teacher. It's all about bringing people and information together. So this is the deal: I'm going to document a "draft to finished" process on that newer work that I recently submitted. Yes, the same one that I am mortified that I put out there for just anyone and everyone to see.

At this point I do not feel that this newer work will ever be publish-ready. It's just not good enough. I don't even know if the time I spend on this particular work in progress is just throwing good money (time) after bad. I am going to rip it apart, trash it and shred it to pieces - and if you really want to, you can join me on the journey.

I do happen to get a lot of new authors who ask me, as a children's librarian, how to get their picture book published. They want to know where to go from here.

First things first, how good is your manuscript? Who else besides your family has read it? How much reading have you done? How well do you know what's being printed?

Now let's dig a little deeper, let's get inside of an actual work in progress, let's see what really goes into the making of a picture book.

Get ready for . . .

The inside workings of a picture book manuscript during revision.
dated and documented


Oh, I get asked if I'm worried about someone stealing my picture book idea. Am I worried about posting it all online. Am I worried about copy write?

As I hope you already know - as you write it, anything you write is immediately under an assumed copy write. I personally worry more about not being able to get this particular manuscript published because--technically--it will already have been published, albeit only online. Not that I have faith enough in this script, at this point, to think it is worthy of bring printed.

That said, there is no new idea under the sun. Just new twists on old themes. I actually started the Philippa Potts idea after performing a cut and tell story The Royal Paper Puzzle from Handmade Tales by Dianne de Las Casas. Inspired by that first line, I gave it a hard yank to the left and started twisting. 


Tip of the day - Picture Books 101:

Most common question I get asked:

Are you illustrating your picture book? Or, Who are you having illustrate your picture book?

Answer: Traditionally you, as the author, will not find your own illustrator. The publishers have their stable of illustrators. In all liklihood you will not only never meet your illustrator, but never even talk with them.

It's a good thing. Think of it as two heads are better than one. Your illustrator will bring another dimension to your work, will bring things to the table that you, as the author, never imagined. Be grateful. Kids almost never write an author telling them how they LOVED the language and the wording. They WILL on the other hand be all over you asking,  "Where is that hidden character on page 3?" Let the illustrator do their job. It is, after all is said and done, a picture book.

Okay, I can't just leave this one there...

I have control issues. I admit it. I want to direct my illustrator! I want to make sure they know there is a secondary story going on that is not conveyed by my text. I LIKE picture books that not only tell the story they tell with words, but also tell by illustration. I know my book and I know that secondary story. I am almost more wordy in my illustration notes than I am in my text. Oh, you poor future illustrators to any of my books! I apologize in advance. I do promise that I will always be open to having more to the story, as provided by you. And, I will forever be jealous your talent. I'm an illustrator at heart, but lacking your talent, I can only paint with words.

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