How Revision Sneaks Up on You: Case File #219
Here’s how it goes:
- You get a picture book idea in October.
- Halloween is in October.
- The story vibe starts with a gently spooky tone.
- The idea comes to you, of course, with a little black cat as the littlehero.
- You play with the idea for a while.
- The story becomes, on paper, less spooky.
- The story becomes, on paper, less about Halloween. Okay, not at all about Halloween.
- You make lots of progress, all the time visualizing the little black cat as surrounded by non-feline characters. Human characters. None of whom seem bothered by the fact that there is a walking, talking little black cat in their world.
- Someone makes a random comment about story animals in clothes. (You have never once pictured your little black cat in clothing. You have, of course, pictured all your human characters in clothes.)
- Just like with Wile E. Coyote and the anvil, the realization hits you: You may have written a story about a little black cat with a bunch of humans, but any rational illustrator is going to think that those humans are other animals you just forgot to identify.
MAYBE EVEN IN CLOTHING!*
- And then, because that road runner is so cunning, a second anvil hits you on the head. There is absolutely no story reason the hero has to be a cat.
- A brief sense of relief breezes by, followed, or course, by a chill wind reminding you that you now have no idea who or what that hero is. Or why they even need to do the thing you have then doing in Sentence 1. (Even, though, for some reason lost in the mists of musedom, it made sense for a cat. No, really. It did.)
- You procrastinate by writing a blog post about it.
- Then, finally, you open the file and get down to it.
*There is nothing intrinsically wrong with stories about animals wearing clothes. I grew up happily reading my father’s old copies of Thornton Burgess’ Mother West Wind Books, I loved when Santa Mouse got his little suit, and I think Charlotte would have rocked a little goth outfit. Just…not this cat, not this story.