What’s Harder about Picture Books—#4,385
Okay, maybe I should have said “different” in the post title, instead of “harder.” As I work through my first picture-book attempt, I’m finding lots of things that do just qualify as different, and some that are actually easier than, oh, say, a historical novel. Did someone say *cough*, “Research?”
This week, though, I’m heading into some more revision, and I had a lightbulb moment about what exactly I’ve been struggling with.
When I revise a novel, I work in threads. Or chunks. Or arcs…however you want to describe it. Basically, if I know that a character’s arc isn’t strong enough, I’ll follow her story all the way through the book, tweaking her interactions with other characters, amping up her responses to events, making connections tighter and layers deeper. Or if I drop a new plot point in toward the end of the book, I go through and plant seeds for that point in earlier chapters, making sure (hopefully!) that they mesh well with the rest of the story. The nice thing about this is that it lets me pay attention to something specific and not bounce around as randomly as I would if I were just revising page-by-page with whatever I noticed not working.
The other nice thing is that I can spend some time around each of these threads. As I work, I do notice other things to play with on another revision pass, and I spend more time with my characters, themes, and voice–getting to know them all that much better. It’s not a fast process, but I think the hours are valuable and add to the quality of my project.
Here’s the thing about a picture book. Each “thread” has maybe a dozen sentences to it. Even if I stare at each of those sentences and think (a la Winnie-the-Pooh) really hard about them, I’m not getting hours worth of revising time for any of them. I realized this was a problem, when I’d tried to revise about a half-page of text and hit overwhelmed. Because…yeah, I was trying to revise three character threads at once.
I can’t DO that.
So, this week, I’ll be taking it a thread at a time. Which may sound easier, and–in terms of keeping my brain INSIDE my skull, will be. In terms of letting me dig into my story, though, really immerse myself in the characters and plot, I’m just not sure. Even if each revision thread goes quickly, I’m not sure that I can shift onto another and another that quickly. Still…if I spend a half hour or hour per thread each day, I should have another solid revision done by the end of the week, and that’s a goal I can live with.
How do you revise? And does it vary for you depending on the length (or other quality) of the manuscript?