Saturday, August 20, 2011


There were a few posts and comments over at WriteOnCon that changed the way I look at revising, so I'm going to share.

On Picture Books:

I don't blog about writing picture books often because, although I do write them, I've received what I thought were so many rejections that I haven't had the confidence to submit a PB manuscript in years. I write a first draft, decide it's a mess, and ignore it. This isn't something I'm proud of.

At WriteOnCon, I kept reading and hearing how important it is to write character driven picture books, and then I participated in "Shake Your PB Till It Shines," by Cory Rosen Schwartz and Tiffany Strelitzlaber. Corey polished a stanza I submitted for their "Makeover," and we both loved the result. In fact, she blogged about it (if you'd like to see the makeover). So, all I have to do is write a compelling story with just the right character in words that sing. Then I have to polish the confection until it shines. That's all. ;o)

Nothing has changed but my attitude.

On Novels:

I struggle with beginnings. Every time I pull up a document to write, I see the beginning and start to overanalyze it. I tinker with mine, completely scrap and write new ones, and they still never feel quite right. You want your first impression to be perfect. 

For the conference, I posted my first five pages of THE BINDER'S WEB. I'm still working on my second draft, partly because I can't leave the beginning alone, so attracting an agent's attention wasn't even something I'd considered. I just wanted feedback. The first person to give me feedback was an agent. 

"Myrna, you've sort of fallen into a common trap of epic fantasy: a huge cast of characters. There are too many people introduced in this short space, and while I was able to separate them for a while, there were just too many to be reasonable, IMO, by the end of five pages.

And your first few paragraphs are really great and intriguing, and I was hoping that something crazy terrible would happen -- you'd introduce that inciting incident -- but you didn't. I think you spend too much time on the day-to-day here, and while it's necessary for the world-building, the pacing is slow and I had to force myself not to skim. You want to filter all of this in as you go and make every single scene as proactively tense as possible, as forward-moving as possible."

This made me rethink my beginning in a major way. While I have a main character, there are two other characters that are almost as important to the story as she is. In chapter six, they all come together for the first time*, and they are the only characters in that scene. A lot of important things happen before that point, but the more I think about starting at this particular point, the better I feel about it. It's going to be a major revision. I may have to change the way I tell the story from third to first person, though I hope not. But I am so excited about how this could improve my whole story.

Robyn (my daughter) and I "attended" the conference together, this year. She even posted her first five pages for critique. I love that girl.

Have a great weekend!

*I have to give my husband credit here for telling me to start it "where the MC has a sword at her throat." Otherwise, I'd still be floundering.   



  1. Wonderful food for thought. And you know, the more I think about it, the more I think that sword-at-the-throat scene could be the perfect starting place. Can't wait to read the changes!(And anything else you'd ever like me to read, of course ... :) )

    Heading over to check out Robyn's pages in a few minutes!

  2. Thanks, Krista! And thanks for your comments on those first five pages.

  3. Sounds like you learned a lot of great stuff there. :)

  4. Hi Myrna! I read Corey's post too. You're very lucky to get Corey to help you polish your PB (she's helped me too). She's terrific. So bubbly and full of energy. And she's a whiz at rhyming. I met her this past June for the first time.

    I loved the stanza you submitted and the polished version too. Great job. I hope you really will go back and revise those old manuscripts and start submitting them again.

  5. I did, Rorie. And even the stuff I already knew helped. Sometimes you just need to read or hear something repeatedly to internalize it.

    Thanks, Joanne. She seems terrific. I worked on one of the picture books this afternoon, and I like what I've come up with so far. :o)

  6. This is great, and the link works for me now.

    I love the simple but effective revision to your picture poem verse. And what great critique for your novel!


    PS. I am thinking of working on some picture books myself, just for fun. I need a new challenge. I will definitely be "taking" that class!

  7. Wow, Myrna, way to go putting your work out there! That's awesome!! I didn't do WriteOnCon this year, but I've been hearing a lot of great things about it. :)

    Great job! Keep up the good work! Rah, rah, rah! (Imagine me leaping through the air like a cheerleader at this point.) And yay for Robyn, too!!


  8. I'm glad, Sue. Good luck with your new challenge!

    Thanks, Amy! If I had a new baby, I wouldn't have done it either. But one of the nice things about WriteOnCon is that they archive everything.