PICTURE BOOK KNOWHOW Editing your picture book

You've finished your story and you're ready to let it out into the world. Now the true work begins! Lucy Rowland helps us face the feedback.

Whether it’s the edits you do yourself after your first draft, edits based on feedback from your agent or crit group, or edits based on comments from an editor who has acquired the book, editing is hard! Here are some things I’ve found helpful when it comes to editing rhyming picture book texts.

Take a deep breath ... When you receive comments from an editor, agent or crit group, firstly take a deep breath and then (and this can be the hard part) listen. Comments can sometimes feel irrationally personal. After working on texts for a long time you become close to them and suggestions on how to re-work them can be hard to take. So take some time to think about the suggestions - sometimes the reason they’re hard to hear is because you know, deep down, that they’re right! So listen, digest and then think about whether you agree. Remember, it is your story and you don’t have to agree with every suggestion. Shaping a text with an editor is about compromise. It’s a joint journey with both parties working together to mould the text into the best story it can be.

A Squash and A Squeeze
Is your story too cramped or is something missing?
Take some time out ... Take some time away from the text - a few weeks or months if you can (I find this very hard!!) When you come back to it it’s usually much easier to see the bits that aren’t working so well. The lines that aren’t scanning properly really stand out.

Read your text aloud ... Read the text out loud to help you hear the rhythm and make sure it’s scanning well. Better still, ask someone else to read it to you. Are there any places where the reader trips up? If so, it’s time to go back and fix them! I find that walking and swimming really help me when I get to the editing phase of my rhyming stories. Maybe it’s something about the rhythm of those activities? I recite the lines in my head as I swim and think about whether they’re working or not … perhaps that’s just me though!

Consider the structure ... Sometimes if the story structure isn’t quite working, it can be helpful to write the story out in prose before writing it in rhyme. This can help with getting the narrative arc just right before you start worrying about rhyme and rhythm.

What are your top tips for editing your picture book texts? 

Does your approach change depending on whether you’re writing in prose or verse?


Lucy Rowland grew up in Cheltenham and now works as a children's speech and language therapist and author in London. From a young age, she has loved reading and listening to poetry and she enjoys creating children's picture book stories with quirky characters and irresistible rhythms. Her recent books include: Little Red Reading Hood, Catch That Egg, Pirate Pete and His Smelly Feet and Jake Bakes a Monster Cake (Macmillan). Gecko's EchoThe Birthday Invitation (Bloomsbury) and The Knight Who Said No (Nosy Crow).

Helen Liston is KnowHow Editor. If you have any ideas for KnowHow topics, get in touch at knowhow@britishscbwi.org

1 comment:

  1. Excellent tips Lucy. I knew I needed to take up swimming again for some reason. ;-)


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