I did something the other day. I shared my first picture book, the one I thought was “close,” to a set of new readers. A few things happened:
- They said many of the things my other critiquers have been saying.
- Because they were fresh readers, and this was their first sight of the picture book, their comments gave me a bit of a kick in the backside, a wake-up call.
- I realized that I still have some deep revision work to do.
Last week, Mary Kole posted a wonderful blog about big revision. In it, she talks about the difference between tinkering and really digging deep, taking apart your story, getting back down to the bones of it and making drastic changes. Here’s a great passage from the post:
…look at the word revision…it means “to see again.” To see your story in a whole new light. To make massive plot, character, and language changes. And having so much on the page already often lures us into a false complacency.
I think I’ve been doing something kind of in between tinkering and the deep stuff. I have made significant changes to the story, at least to the way I tell the story. I’ve been trying to revision the way I see the characters and how I draw them on the page. I’ve been playing a lot with what I write into words, and what I leave for an illustrator.
But–as these new critiquers brought home to me–I haven’t gone deep enough. I still need to answer questions about the purpose of each character (thank goodness there are only three!) in the story. I need to think about who’s story this really is, and why. And I need to seriously take a look at that ending and see if it needs to be tossed out–if it’s simply leftover from that initial idea, rather than being the true way that everything comes together.
Back to the bones. Not just picking up the ones I’ve scattered around, but figuring out–for real this time–which bones I need and what they do. Maybe the wrist bone isn’t connected to the arm bone. Or maybe it is, but I’ve stuck a leg bone in by mistake. I have, possibly, been spending too much time laying the muscles and skin over a not-yet-sturdy assemblage of parts.
I absolutely believe everything Mary Kole says in her post. I’ve told people the same thing a hundred times. I’ve told it to myself. I know it all to be true.
This doesn’t mean I’m not nervous about whether or not I can do it. Or how.
But…this is what it’s all about. It’s as Mary says: “…it’s those writers who have the guts to start over in a piece that usually reap the biggest rewards.”
And it’s one of those writers who probably said best, how I’m feeling as I head into this next revision: