Revise Your Children’s Book Manuscript over Labor Day Weekend

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Revise your children’s book manuscript over Labor Day weekend

I will be spending Labor Day weekend revising a YA historical. Because I won a fiction scholarship and went to Prague for the month of July with Western Michigan University’s Prague Summer Program, I used up all my vacation days and had to take a leave of absence from my day job. That meant I couldn’t attend even one week of the Carolyn P. Yoder Alumni Retreat, in which I’d been participating for six years. That also meant I didn’t have time to revise anything.

So, I decided to dedicate Labor Day weekend to the craft. Join me in the challenge! And if you do, let’s comment on The Whole Megillah about our experiences. Imagine the supportive community we can create!

Some tips I learned about revision I want to share with you

In March 2011, I attended a Highlights Foundation workshop, Plotting Your Novel, with namelos publisher Stephen Roxburgh. Here’s a snapshot of my take-aways (and, BTW, more of his workshops are coming up in the fall):

  1. After you’ve written your first draft, that is, after you’ve finished “compiling,”  turn on your inner critic.
  2. Your inner critic should first review the relationships in the book. Do not start at page 1. Instead, group scenes by main character and each secondary character. Is the scene fully fleshed out? What is it missing? Are scenes between these characters happening at the appropriate frequency? Are there good transitions? Are all characters necessary? Could you use another one?
  3. Repeat the process with themes and motifs.
  4. When that is all done, clip the pages of each chapter together. Put them in a pile. Throw them all up in the air and then line edit chapters in the order in which they have fallen to the floor. Again, do not start with page 1.
  5. After line edits, review the ms. again and be ruthless. If there’s a phrase you hate, get rid of it. If there’s a phrase you love, get rid of it.
  6. Now you may be ready to share your ms. with a first reader.

Preparing for revision

Here’s my plan:

  1. Review my core story statement. I developed this with Stephen. This novel ms. is a total rewrite of a novel I’d bludgeoned to death over the course of 12 years. I changed characters and plot, but the setting is the same. 
  2. Read/review books I admire. I love Ursula Hegi’s writing in her adult market historical fiction. She, too, focuses on one town as I do. I plan to read her latest novel in the series for craft and inspiration. I also plan to read the wedding scene in The Godfather just to see how ensemble scenes can work.
  3. Develop a character wheel. It takes a first draft to get to know your story and your characters. I read about a method in the September issue of The Writer to develop a character wheel. Make a circle in the middle of a blank piece of paper with the name of your character, along with age and gender. Draw five spokes from the wheel at 12, 2, 5, 7, and 10. Label them sight, sound, touch, taste, smell. Then jot down words and phrases that describe your character along each of these senses.

I hope many of you will join me the Labor Day challenge! Please comment and let me know if you’re with me!

About Barbara Krasner

History writer and award-winning author Barbara Krasner writes Jewish-themed poetry, articles, nonfiction books, and novels for children and adults.
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12 Responses to Revise Your Children’s Book Manuscript over Labor Day Weekend

  1. Thanks for these excellent ideas for revision. It is nice to find something new on this topic. At what point will you know you are finished?

  2. Karen Z says:

    You’re on, Barbara! I’ve sent the challenge to my writing group too. Who’s with me?

  3. Kimberly says:

    This sounds great and inspiring! I would have love to join you but unfortunately (and fortunately) will be away. I can’t wait to read about the weekend!

  4. Lois Ruby says:

    I’d love to be able to join you in the Revision Marathon, but not over Labor Day. However, your suggestions for revision are excellent, and I’m pinning them to my forehead! Thanks.

  5. This is great information, Barbara. Thanks for posting it. I can’t do it over Labor Day, but soon.

  6. Andrea Fooner says:

    You’re at it again, gadfly to the world of isolated, not-always efficient Jewish-themed children’s writers. I expect to be away Labor Day Weekend, in a place where I will be away from the usual distractions. So, yes, I’ll take the challenge of finishing one of my unfinished stories.

  7. I’ve highlighted the scenes – slow and painful work. Now I’m looking for the additional scenes I wrote over the last couple of months.

    • Found the scenes and incorporated them. Wrote one new scene and identified the need for a few more. The methodology Stephen Roxburgh suggested works pretty well, I think. Relationship by relationship. Motif by motif. But will I be able to complete the revision by the end of Labor Day Weekend? Nope, don’t think so. The end of September is more likely. How about the rest of you?

  8. Becca K. says:

    I love that “Character Wheel” idea and plan to borrow it. Thanks for sharing. I didn’t make it in time for Labor Day, but I think I’ll be ready soon!

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