Saturday, March 15, 2014

"Killing Your Darlings"- Picture Book Dummy Spreads Revisited

You know, my New Year's resolution was to drink one kale shake a day, but it SHOULD have been to get back to writing the blog I have so neglected (at least once a week!) for over a year. Especially since the kale shake thing didn't work out. But I digress!

Many things have changed in my life since my last blog. I became a proud SCBWI member, for one, and have loved the opportunities it has opened up for me and other fellow writers and illustrators. I very highly recommend it. So far, I have been to the Winter Conference, the New Jersey Chapter Annual Conference, and the Hawaii Chapter Annual Conference (more on Hawaii later). Not to mention the smaller seminars and workshops that were SO helpful, especially the one on picture book word count by Ame Dyckman. Incredible!

The other major thing that happened was that I got hitched and moved to Hawaii--hence the switch over from the New Jersey Chapter to the Hawaii Chapter. Remember that Sailor from my earlier posts? He put a ring on it. (YAY!) And he is stationed in Pearl Harbor, so the Aloha State is my happy home for the time being. I miss my family and friends back home, but I ALSO missed that nasty Polar Vortex, so everything worked out, I guess.

After all of the wedding planning and big move were over, I vowed to re-do a Picture Book Dummy and edit the text. The text is currently on it's third draft, so I won't include that, but I'll show you some of the "then" and "now" spreads.


As you can see, I left room for the text in both, but there is almost TOO much white space in this first one. Especially because the text is supposed to go into that oval, which I would never ever ever do again--unless I had a good reason for it, that is. Everything also seems jumbled together, like it's squeezing in to fit itself. Finally, the main character (Nina) is nowhere in sight, nor is the other character from the story(the Wolf). There is also a third element, a junkyard, that I did not show. (I know you guys don't know the story, so you don't know why I should even be including a junkyard, but just go with me on this).


 As you can see, there is still plenty of white space, except now, I hint at more information so that I don't need to explain with too much text. Usually, there are only 32 pages to work with in a picture book, and I needed to make them really count. Here, I have panned out, added the character, and added other elements of the story. I also changed the trees and vegetation as a stylistic choice.


This is the part of the story where the main character, Nina, discovers that the Wolf (who everyone is irrationally afraid of) is an artist, not a monster. He makes sculptures out of junk from the junkyard, which is what we see here. The problem is that the space I leave for the text seems forced, and not enough of the total picture is being revealed (though this was before I edited the story and that also changed things).


I changed quite a bit. Not only did I change the perspective and leave more natural text space, but I made the Wolf look more benign. I also changed the sculpture to have function and be a fountain, which actually hints at what will happen towards the end of the story (but I won't reveal that here!).

Overall, I learned one of the most important lessons in the editing process while re-doing this dummy project: Do not be afraid to "kill your darlings." Not only did I change most of the plot and cut the manuscript word count down by almost half, I was willing to re-design and re-draw the entire book. And you know what? I'll probably do it again with at least half of those spreads before I send it out to an agent. Because it is so much better now than it was 3 years ago.

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