Revision Tips From a Hospital Room
The revision struggle is real! Lately, I've been battling a recent draft of a manuscript that I"ve pulled from submission to give it a little something extra. My attempts to change one little section snowballed into a complete rewrite. Far from the original concept, I'm drafting an entirely new story. Of course, I'm no stranger to this; if you've read the backstory on THE STAR FESTIVAL, it is clear that sometimes, a complete overhaul is necessary. I'm game.
However, knowing this doesn't necessarily make the rewrites less painful. Seriously! Solving a problem in a manuscript becomes an obsession. I live and breathe how to fix it and craft a story that I can imagine seeing on the shelves.
Try, fail, repeat.
Try, fail, progress.
I like it.
Read it out loud to my husband,
I hate it!
Repeat the process all over again!
So, I was in this revision frenzy, thinking why is this so challenging, feeling like the answers were right there—within my reach, but far enough away to make it difficult to grasp. Then, the universe throws in a twist. My husband gets admitted to the hospital to take care of a newly diagnosed, but long-standing back problem. My manuscript, a minor problem compared to what life was handing us at that moment came with me. (Remember the obsession part?) I found myself setting up shop, paper, and pencil in hand in a hospital room.
Visiting hours offered unexpected down time and a perspective that I hadn't asked for. When the nurses rolled my husband out of the room, I found myself staring at walls, examining the bits of the room that generally go unnoticed, and photographing everyday objects. I revised the images with some iPhone effects, brightness, contrast, brilliance, and color. But my time spent tinkering with each photo was more than a distraction.
This day spent staring at the walls of a hospital room reminded me that we are always evolving. Our bodies, thoughts, goals, attitudes, skills, art work, and stories constantly change. Revision is endless. Sometimes it is planned and other times unexpected. Thankfully, we are home. I can't say the same for my manuscript yet, but I'm working on it.
Here's a list of revision tips inspired by the photos taken from visiting hours in a hospital room. (Hover over the image to read the tip or see below.)
I'd love to hear in the comments how your revision is going!
1. Go bold and colorful,
2. Highlight elements of the story. Is there too much dialogue, description, passive language?
3. Change the story structure.
4. Change the setting. (Taken from the parking lot.)
5. Clean it up. Get rid of parts that don't move the story forward.
6. Complete all circles. Close out any plot points introduced in the story.
7. Start from the end. Maybe your first lines should be your last!
8. Show the character arc. How did they change by the end?
9. Flush out anything that is not working, evey your darlings!
10. Try a fresh approach, something you haven't tried, something you've resisted.
11. Add a time constraint.
12. Allow time to reflect. Put the manuscript away.
13. Take a break. Have a snack.
14. Edit. Too many words? Leave some space.
15. Change the perspective.
What started as a casual conversation with a local librarian led to a more extensive discussion with five local librarians about which books parents were requesting for their children but couldn't find. What was lacking, and what themes were being overlooked or underrepresented? With the exception of a couple of topics, the results were widely varied. Check out what five Los Angeles-based librarians had to say.
The first library I visited expressed a need for books about consent, such as the picture book, Don't Hug Doug. Another one that comes to mind is C is for Consent. The need for diverse books hasn't slowed, and helpful books to assist parents are also being requested. Newer takes on potty training, and weaning and books about single parenting are in high demand. The librarian specified that this topic extends beyond divorce and separation stories. She feels that parents need assistance and conversation starters to represent one parent raising a child/children while the other parent is absent.
The second librarian had yet to receive many requests from parents, but the library is still actively purchasing books with social justice themes and social-emotional learning. She expressed concern that Covid continues to affect social transitions in schools. She also reinforced that kids use their local library to do homework after school. I've seen this library at total capacity, and I love that the kids have a safe place to congregate!
The third librarian I visited needs books about climate change, Native Americans, and local biographies about interesting people. In her words, "Not the same ol' people." She also expressed interest in fresh takes on classic themes such as sibling rivalry and grandparents' passing. This library continues to acquire books on social justice, gender identity, and neurodiversity.
The fourth librarian said there had been little input from parents since Covid. But she had received a few involving themes of entering school for the first time (preK, or preK to Kinder). Other topics requested are books on emotions, trucks, and manners.
And finally, the last librarian commented on the disparity between the type of books parents want their kids to read, and the books children choose for themselves. Parents seek the classics for their children, but kids can't get enough of graphic novels. Kids are devouring them, even early reader graphic novels. She shared how her son loves this format. He reads and rereads stories such as Dogman. Each time he reads from a new perspective. As he matures, new connections are formed, and he accesses the material at higher levels of understanding.
So, there you have it. If you are a writer, I hope this information fuels your imagination, and I hope your book appears on future library's list to purchase. If you are a librarian, teacher, or parent, I'd love to hear which topics you wish to see on the shelves.
Leave your comment below!
Kidlit Authors Trivia Quiz
It's time for some kidlit author trivia! How will you score? TOP DOG? BADDEST CAT? or CASUAL KITTEN? Take out a sheet of paper to record your choices. Scroll down for the answer key when finished.
1 This book was written on a $50 bet when this author's publisher challenged him/her to write a book using 50 words or less.
a. Where the Wild Things Are/Maurice Sendak
b. Green Eggs and Ham/Dr. Seuss
c. Baby Animals/Gyo Fujikawa
d. Goodnight Moon/Margaret Wise Brown
2. This author only writes/wrote stories using a pencil and yellow paper.
a. C.S. Lewis
b. Jason Reynolds
c. P.D. Eastman
d. Roald Dahl
3. This author preferred outdoor activities to reading and was an avid sailor.
a. E.B. White
b. Arnold Lobel
c. Chris Van Allsburg
d. Shel Silverstein
4. A skating rink in Kiyose, Japan, was named after this author.
a. Laura Ingalls Wilder
b. A.A. Milne
c. Ezra Jack Keats
d. Madeleine L'Engle
5. This author's illustration of a red lobster created for an advertisement led to his first picture book assignment.
a. Mercer Mayer
b. Eric Carle
c. Crockett Johnson
d. Norman Bridwell
6. This author shares a birthday with Abraham Lincoln and Judy Blume.
a. Beverly Cleary
b. Bill Martin Jr.
c. Astrid Lindgren
d. Jacqueline Woodson
7. This author was frightened of “dogs, swimming, and thunderstorms as a child.
a. Grace Lin
b. Lauren Child
c. Judy Bloom
d. Sandra Boynton
8. This author kept a journal and jotted down private thoughts in a secret code.
a. Lewis Carroll
b. S.E. Hinton
c. Richard Scarry
d. Beatrix Potter
9. This author wished to become the first female major league baseball player, and also wanted a career as a FBI agent.
a. Rosemary Wells
b. J.K. Rowling
c. Jane Yolan
d. Mem Fox
10. This author hates Mickey Mouse.
a. Laura Numeroff
b. R.L. Stine
c. Mo Willems
d. Linda Sue Park
Path To Publication