December 15, 2016

The Story that You Love

Have you written a picture book story that you love?  Have you submitted it to agents, but it’s been rejected? I can’t begin to count all of the times that's happened to me.  And then...  

Over the summer I re-read a 1000-word picture book manuscript that I had written five years ago.  I loved this story, but it was rejected time after time.  I finally figured out that the piece was too long.  So 500 words were cut.  Afterward, the story was critiqued and revised and revised.  A compelling query letter was crafted and the much shorter story was submitted. About a month later a handful of agents rejected it, but a publisher sent me an exciting note.  She texted me that she liked the book!  I screamed and jumped up and down like a maniac.  She sent me a book contract, something I've been dreaming about and working toward for many, many years.

It's exciting to find someone who loves the book as much as I do.  So based on my experience, I'd like to offer picture book writers some tips to help you get your work published.  

1.  Put the manuscript that you love on hold for a couple of months.  In the meantime go online or to the library and read current picture books.  Find one that speaks to your heart.  Analyze it.  Is it the voice, the theme, or the character that draw you to the story  Use this book as inspiration or even as a model to guide you when it's time to revise your work.

2.  Return to the story that you've written (and love) and get ready to edit it.  Read your story out loud.  Do you stumble on some words?  Work on improving the flow.  Consider word choice.  Use a thesaurus to find words that are better fits.  

3.  Cut words.  Today, publishers want stories under 500 words.  You may feel that you will not be able to tell the whole story with fewer words, but lowering the word count will challenge you to tell a concise story. 

4.  Have a second reader have a look.  Consider the suggestions and revise.  Start writing the hook and the synopsis.  Believe me, this will help you find areas in your picture book that may need editing.    

How do you like the story now?  Even better, I’m sure.  Now re-write your query (no gimmicks, just a professional letter) and send it to agents especially open to picture books.  If you get emails from agents that say your story has potential or the project sounds interesting, you’re on the right track.  These positive comments are saying you’re getting closer to publication.  You’re getting closer to finding someone who will fall in love with your work.




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