CONFESSIONS OF A CHILDREN’S BOOK AUTHOR … ABOUT EDITING
Contribution by Amberly Kristen Clowe, author of the award-winning Teeny Sweeney early chapter book series
“So the writer who breeds more words than he needs
Is making a chore for the reader who reads.”
I’m a big believer in what Dr. Seuss stated in the quote above because the last thing I want to do is make reading a chore.
When I first began writing with publishing in mind, my focus was not on editing at all. My thoughts were pretty much about writing my first draft to getting that beauty published. I saw my title in big, bright lights.
Who will illustrate my book? When will I see it in Barnes & Noble? These were my questions. I never once questioned whether or not my story was actually ready to be published.
It was only after an agent completely and totally obliterated my first manuscript that I really considered the value of editing and being edited.
Honestly, that first bit of guidance stabbed like a sharp knife in the back. I remember my exasperation. What? And the dispute came next. Well, that’s subjective.
I seriously laugh out loud just typing that. I was quite arrogant and ignorant in the beginning. I’ve learned so much over the years, but there is still so much to learn. There always will be. It’s a cool idea, really, to realize I’ll always be a life-long student.
[bctt tweet=”Learn five helpful #editingtips from award-winning author @AmberlyClowe in this month’s Confessions of a Children’s Author on the @LittleLambBooks blog. #writelife #amwriting #kidlit” username=”littlelambbooks”]
Below are five specific tips that have helped me sharpen my editing skills:
- Be Your Own Editor First.
There are quite a few things you can do to edit yourself before anyone else ever takes a look at your manuscript. First, take a step back from your manuscript for a day or so, to give yourself a fresh start. Then, look for typos. Spell Check. Clean up weasel words that you find over and over again. Be sure you have a beginning, middle, and end. Read it out loud and check for pacing, vocabulary, etc. Take the time to clean up your work before you share it.
- Join A Critique Group (In Person or Online).
I know, we’ve heard this a million times, but it’s the truth y’all. Critique groups are the bees knees. What a genuine help to an author this little circle of people can be as they inspire creative thinking, expand knowledge of semantics and grammar, offer objective feedback, and more. You can find them in person or online. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) is a great resource for this.
- Read. Read. Read.
I really can’t stress this enough. It wasn’t until the last few years that I truly understood the writing benefits of reading more books in and outside my genre. It can help you solidify your own voice. I’ve learned what it is that I truly love to write. Because of reading, I know that I enjoy the fun, humorous growth of early readers, but I also really like digging my teeth into a romantic, dystopian YA. I enjoy an interesting, vast vocabulary. We can learn so much about ourselves by picking up others’ stories. And when we know ourselves as writers, that’s when the passion and magic happens.
Are you on a budget? Use the library. Do you believe strongly in small and local businesses? Buy books from them. Do you have author friends who write your genre? Support them by purchasing and reading their titles.
- Work with a Professional Editor.
Whichever publishing route you ultimately choose (self-pub, hybrid, or traditional), you’ve got to do strong editing before putting it out there for the world. I love, love, love my editor. She completely gets my main character. I was just editing my next book in the Teeny Sweeney series and found where she wrote, “Insert a Teeny-ism here.” How cool and personal is that!
There will always be something in your piece of work that will need some cleaning up. Having another set of eyes specifically looking out for you by helping you find the errors and making suggestions for changes is never a bad move. Get recommendations from author friends. Check out Facebook Groups or Twitter events. Visit Reedsy. Whomever you choose, be sure to look them up, check their references, and do the important research.
This seems like a duh statement, but it’s not. We can all get uber busy and making time to practice our craft can get pushed to the bottom of the priority list. I’m usually writing in the early morning, around 5:30 because if I wait, it won’t happen. We have to get the words down before we’re even attempting to edit. Was that a good ‘ol fashion kick-in-the-pants? Good. Mission accomplished.
Editing is not easy and it does cause your skin to grow considerably thicker. But, even more, when you embrace the knowledge and suggestions of others, your storytelling skills grow considerably better.
So, whether you are at the beginning of your writing journey or you have multiple books under your belt, I pray that you feel encouraged to edit and polish those creative ideas.
Now, get to it!