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A report from Revision Camp

Begin at the Beginning
Hello, pretties! *waves madly at people in the internet*

I am still enjoying my revision camp, although I have to confess that (a) "enjoying" is sometimes not the right word ("frustrated by" is often more apt) and (b) things are not progressing speedily.

What picture book revision involves

What I picked out to work on this week: five picture book manuscripts in various stages of completion, plus my Shakespeare poems. You see, I binge wrote picture books for a week back in early June, forcing myself to work on a new idea each day for five days in order to get past a sort of block where I wasn't writing because I couldn't get my drafts right on the first try. Not that anyone can actually do that, except for rare occasions where something falls in your lap, but still . . . I'd been twiddling my thumbs for too long and decided to follow the Nike ad's advice and "just do it".

This week, I expected to quickly knock things out. After all, I've been working on these manuscripts off and on since they were written, and I figured it wouldn't take GOBS of work to get them all whipped into shape. (Cue the maniacal laughter of the writing/revision gods.)

What I grabbed first: a picture book that needed, like, three more couplets (yeah, it rhymes) to be a finished draft, plus it needed smoothing and polishing. Friends, it is still not finished, and I've been working on it most of the day every day since Monday. The three additional couplets are done. The polishing and smoothing up of the rest is done. I made a thumbnail dummy (not sure that's what anyone else calls it - I draw a bunch of pages on a single piece of paper and write a word for what happens on each spread.) It works, and could make for great illustrations.

But when I woke from a nap on Tuesday, I realized that one of the couplets up in the middle doesn't actually match the premise, so it has to be hauled out and replaced. I am still struggling to get it fixed.

The total word count on that picture book is around 200 words. Experienced picture book writers know how much every single word matters, and how it takes time to get them "just right", but it's nevertheless easy to think "well, how long can it actually take to fix things when the book is that short?" I'm here to tell you that I've put at least 18-20 hours of work into the poem this week, and it's still not there. And that doesn't count the time spent drafting the initial poem, plus earlier revision passes on the stuff that was written. As of now, before I start work today, I probably have close to 40 hours of time into this manuscript, and it still needs more work once I get the new stanza written and put it in place. (It will have to rest, then I have to revise it again, then it has to go to first readers, etc., ...) At any rate, I thought it might be helpful to some folks to know how long a manuscript can take. Some go faster. Some, I might add, go far more slowly.

It hasn't all been obsessive work on a single manuscript. Yesterday, in order to retain my sanity, I pulled out a different manuscript, also in rhyme. It was a complete mess on the written page, so I typed it up and tweaked it and . . . whaddya know, it's not too bad. I have to consider whether it is "done" or needs another entire stanza (which is significantly longer than a couplet), and whether the ending words stay or need to be replaced. But it's so much closer than I thought it was, so YAY!

On today's schedule: Continued work on the first picture book I mentioned to replace the troublesome stanza, plus make a dummy of some sort (actual or thumbnail) for the second one. There are three more picture book manuscripts plus a poetry collection still sitting there on the sidelines with their arms crossed, scowling at me, but they will have to stay there until I can get to them.




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Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
writerjenn
Jul. 11th, 2014 12:02 am (UTC)
1. Hello, pretty! *waves back*

2. Maniacal laughter is probably a bigger part of the writing life than most non-writers would believe.

3. "It takes as long as it takes" is such a good statement. We will probably keep tossing it back and forth to each other ad infinitum.
kellyrfineman
Jul. 11th, 2014 03:43 pm (UTC)
Number two is a fine point, and I'm certain you are correct.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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