Thursday 18 August 2011

To Cut or Not to Cut?

The editing process can be a painful one.  A year ago I started writing my picture book I'm Just a Home Child about my Great Grandma, Daisy Blay (see my post "The British Home Children", dated August 1).  I have gotten several good suggestions from fellow writers; however, with every rewrite, I add to my word count.  Now I am up to 2400 words.  Ideally, I would like to cut the book in half.  But how do I do that without losing important details and scenes? 

Ever since I first started writing, I have always gone above my designated word count.  If a professor asked me to write a 1000 word essay, I would give him 1200 words.  If he wanted 1500, I would give him 2000.  It is a real talent to say a lot in a small amount of space.  Less is more, as they say. 

I'd like to submit my book to a publisher by the end of this month so I have my work cut out for me.  Again, I appreciate the tips that I receive from other writers, but at the same time, I don't want to take so much advice that the work isn't mine anymore.  Should I cut the beginning?  Should I shorten the ending?  Should I cut the middle section?  Should I focus on one day of Daisy's life, one year or her entire childhood?  How do I write from a child's point of view, but at the same time keep the material interesting enough for an adult (since parents usually read picture books to their children)?  How do I convey the helplessness of my Great-Grandma's situation without making each scene melodramatic?  How do I make the book educational, but not scary?  How do I paint a picture for the reader rather than simply tell a story? 

These are the questions I ask myself as I read over my manuscript for the hundredth time.  What is that special quality that my writing needs to attract the eye of an editor?  I have sold the idea (three publishers said they wanted to read my manuscript); now I have to sell the finished product.  I long for the day when I hold the actual book in my hand.  For now, I will hang on to others' success stories.  Back to the drawing board I go.

Cartoon courtesy

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