Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Finest Literary Sawdust

I know that the most important thing to get right when subbing is the writing. So I'm curious, when you receive manuscripts that are very strong, but not quite there (ie. not a beginner effort, but not quite publishable) what are the most common things that you ask for revisions on? In other words, what can a solid writer do, before sending their manuscript out, to elevate his/ her work to that next level?

When I ask for revisions, my requests are usually very specific to that manuscript. But you can trim.

And trim, and trim, and trim. How much of your manuscript will be conveyed in the illustrations? How much is just literary flourishes? Which parts build directly on the narrative's core ideas, and which are unnecessary branchings? Sometimes I get texts with a great deal of dead wood, and sometimes I get the literary equivalent of a bonsai. Make your manuscript something that only needs a snip here and there, rather than a chainsaw. Or worse, the chipper.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

If we are trying to be spare and leave some of the telling to the illustrations (and so have a specific idea of what a particular picture should convey), should we make note of the idea in the manuscript when we send it (via a parentheses next to a particular line, or other?) Or do we leave that to the editor to imagine for him/herself?

Editorial Anonymous said...

If there's something that will be indicated in the illustrations that is important to the plot, then noting that in parentheses is fine.
Do not bother making notes like "Jordan is wearing a blue hat here". Illustrators are half of the creative team, not a tool for the author's use.

Judy said...

You're talking picture books here, right? In midgrades or YA's there are not enough pictures to convey a lot. Yes, I agree we might still need to cut, but on the other hand, I have been told that I need more detail about specific scenes. Which way do we go?

Adrian said...

Thanks EA!

I find art notes particularly tricky. It's like a big bag of potato chips. It's hard to stop when you should. ;)

nw said...

EA, here's an editorspeak question: What does "a bit too quiet to make itself heard" mean?

Editorial Anonymous said...

Judy,
I can only suggest you consider what ideas your longer work is trying to get across. Try to trim the parts that are not helping those ideas, no matter how precious they are to you. Kill your darlings, as they say.

Editorial Anonymous said...

NW,
It means you don't have a hook.

studio hermit said...

As an illustrator, I've never taken a job without asking if I could completely disregard the author's art notes. I've never had an editor tell me anything but 'be my guest.'

Adrian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.