Editing Part 1: My first picture book

My experience…

Once I had signed my contract with Larrikin House, it was time to polish my manuscript with the view to making it as strong as possible. Having spent many years working as an editor and marking tertiary assignments, the nuts and bolts of the editing process was very familiar. First up, James Layton (Head Larrikin) put me in touch with the lovely author, Emily S. Smith. We shared track changes and met by Zoom a couple of times. Most of the discussion was about making sure the meter was tight and trying to up the ante a little in terms of humour, and with respect to the growth or turning point for the main character.

Many children’s authors will tell you that finding a plausible and satisfying way for a child protagonist to take the lead role in solving their own problem can be tough. In my case, empathy and reassurance from Dad were really important in terms of helping the character (Jude) face his fears… but Jude also needed to have agency in this process. It was a balancing act to preserve this nice father and son moment, without having Dad simply step in and solve the problem in a didactic way. This was something that was revisited and tweaked a few times during the editing process.

Once Emily and I had been over the manuscript a couple of times, we met with James again. This meeting was particularly interesting because we considered a range of questions including: Were the character names working? When it comes to the illustrations, would the characters be human? Were they the right genders? Although we didn’t make any significant changes in this respect, I liked the way this made me think very deliberately about all the elements of the story.

From there the manuscript went to a few different authors involved in Larrikin’s editing process. This came back with a range of different feedback, some of which was considered but not acted upon, and some of which flagged things that should or would be changed. Once you feel as though the story is almost ready to go, getting additional feedback can be a little challenging, and the more people you chat to the more likely you are to get conflicting points of view, but I tried to view this as a microcosm of the wider readership. If one person in six thought something wasn’t working then perhaps one reader in six might have the same thought… this was helpful when assessing whether a change would make the story stronger or not.

Once the edits were finalised, the manuscript was sent to the illustrator, Vaughan Duck. There would be a chance for very minor tweaks, if needed, once the proofs were returned but for all intents and purposes this was the end of the manuscript editing process. I will share more about working with the illustrator in a future post. In the meantime, check out Editing Part 2: Top tips to thrive.

Published by bec16

Bec is an author from the Gold Coast with over 10 years of freelance writing experience. Her first picture book is being published by Larrikin House in 2022.

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