I write stuff for kids...and muse on writing, children's books, and the publishing industry in general

Sunday, September 5, 2010

When is your Picture Book Manuscript Finished?

We had a fantastic discussion at Picture Books Only #pblitchat the other day about the book writing process ("From Idea to Polished Manuscript: How Do You Get There?"). One of the topics we covered had to do with knowing when your picture book manuscript is finished. In other words, when do you stop editing and send it out to agents and publishers?

Some of the useful tips I picked up were:
  • it can take many, many revisions before a picture book is ready to send out
  • keep copies of your old drafts in case you want to go back to them
  • it is not just a case of writing a 500-word (or however many words) short piece of text and calling that a picture book. There's a particular craft involved in picture book writing that takes time and effort and attention to master
  • you should always have someone else (and preferably more than one person) give a critique on your picture book manuscript. You need someone who can say - "Have you thought about this?" or "I'm not sure this part works"
  • once you have edited your picture book manuscript and sent it out for critiques, take those comments on board and begin the re-editing process again
  • some authors have revised a particular picture book manuscript 60 times before it is "finished"
One particular piece of advice which rang true to me was - read your manuscript through at least ten times, and if you don't change a single word, you'll know it's ready. A useful guideline, particularly if this process takes place after you have finished revisions suggested to you by critique partners AND if your final readings take place over a period of days/weeks, so you can come back to the picture book manuscript with fresh eyes in between.

In the end though, you'll know when it's ready! Trust your instinct, and remember there's nothing to say you can't come back to your picture book manuscript down the track and begin revisions again...


Tessa Quin said...

"...read your manuscript through at least ten times, and if you don't change a single word, you'll know it's ready."

I'd never send out manuscripts if I did that :P I ALWAYS change at least one word when I'm reading my manuscript. Okay, so I don't have much experience with picture books, but it's something I've become interested in lately. I sort of accidentally wrote one, and now I have an idea for another (a really good, original one, I think).

Rachael Harrie said...

Tee hee, I know what you mean. Though picture books are a little different than YA/MG manuscripts, particularly the shorter ones.

That's so exciting that you're branching out into PBs. Happy to brainstorm with you or help with critiques if you want :)

Katrina L. Lantz said...

This is great advice! I'm just starting to research the PB market (if you don't count years of reading them to my kids). My mom is an artist and we've always toyed with the idea of writing PB's together. I found your blog very helpful. Thank you!

Rachael Harrie said...

Glad it helped Katrina! Lovely to have you following along :)

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