Looking at these reminds me so much of various versions of a single picture book. All four of these came from one ball of yarn. They all contain the same elements, just like revisions of one picture book all have plot, theme, character, word choice, etc. But different elements take center stage in different revisions. These fingerless gloves are all made from the same pattern and the same ball of yarn. But they have different, um, weaknesses (let’s call them that, rather than flat-out errors). Too long. Too short. Too messy. Things unraveling a bit. One element outshining the others.
This is SO much like what revising a picture book is like!
I just pulled five (yes, five) picture book manuscripts out of submission. Several are narrative fiction, though a couple are more conceptual. I’ve received generally positive but similar feedback from smart editors, and here’s the problem. In trying to make the manuscripts short and spare, which I love, I’ve either 1) erased the deeper theme/meaning that would let them resonate OR 2) presented a great premise and characters, but not packed enough plot and transformation into my story.
So, like my fingerless gloves pictured above, these manuscripts aren’t ready for the world yet. I’ve pulled them off my “submit list,” and I’m going to analyze each one carefully this coming month. I’ll be looking at every element, studying the proportion of story to character to theme. I’ll be checking beginnings and endings–did I set something great up at the beginning and finish it at the end? I’ll be looking at word choice–can it be better? I did this on one manuscript last month–my MONSTERS manuscript–and I’m happy to report it’s back in the “submit list.” Whee!
There’s no single pattern to follow for picture books, and even if there were, I’d find ways to get it wrong (Refer to Photo 2 above). Instead, I think each idea has a pattern that works just right for that particular story. It’s a matter of drafting, revising, analyzing, getting feedback, brainstorming, and so on, over and over again, until you hit on the revision that’s snug and beautiful and fits just right.
Maybe you have a manuscript that it’s time to unravel and knit back up again?