Taking an honest look at your fiction…
Okay so you have your story, you think it’s good, you’re super excited about it… but now what?
Now is the time to take a step back and look at your work from a distance. Look at your work with a critical eye and think about how your piece fits in with today’s world. This kind of self-honesty can be tough. It can be difficult to find that balance between accountability and crippling self-doubt. A huge part of any self-directed endeavor is knowing how much pressure you need to apply. But please, please, especially if you are just starting out… do NOT be too hard on yourself. You don’t need to capture the zeitgeist of the entire decade into your picture book. You just have to do your “honest-to-gosh” best…
Here’s What I’ve Learned
Don’t try to edit your story immediately after you write your first draft. You want that initial creativity to come from a place of passion. So write hot then edit cold. You never want to try to ice your cake too early right?
Do put your story on the shelf for a few days or even a week. Look at it again with a pair of fresh eyes. Take a more logical and pragmatic approach when you edit. Think about your original core message. Then look through your story and make sure that every part of that story agrees with that message. Take out any irrelevant or redundant parts. Usually, editing means you are going to be doing a lot of weeding. In my experience typically it means cutting the intro down. Look for sections that lose momentum. How can you cut these parts or juice them up?
Remember your Audience!
Editing is the time to walk away from your childhood and personal inspiration and think about the children you are creating content for now.
The books I loved as a kid like the famous New England author Robert McCloskey known for Make way for Ducklings and Blueberries for Sal, these books had a word count of 2000 words or more. They are very “wordy” by today’s standards. Many books that we remember from our childhood are filled with a lot of vivid imagery and details. Unfortunately, to me anyhow, nowadays the average word count on a picture book is 500 words or less. So again think about the audience you are creating this story for now.
Share your work!!!
Guys, I am giving this one THREE EXCLAMATION POINTS!!! It is crucial to share your work with others. Don’t just share it with family and friends, they are too bias to give your work an honest critique. Share it with other writers. Read your stories to kids of all ages. (They will be VERY honest with you!) Ask for criticism. Ask for help with tricky spots. Notice which parts are problematic. Is your audience getting confused or bored? Listen with an open mind. It’s wicked scary, I know. I have a really hard time sharing my work in such a vulnerable state, but again… THREE EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!
Sharing with others will help you find your blind spots. It also helps you build a supportive community. The people who you share your work with are going to take a vested interest in your writing. They will be the ones at your side when you launch your final product.