Starting the Process...by heart
Just one year ago at this time I was in the throes of editing my heart out on my first born Bezert and long time love. I was asked by my publisher to "take the knife first" as she put it. "Cut out at least 20 pages of this story." She said "Some of it is redundant and in many places the text reiterates the illustrations. You want to give your reader a little credit to be able to use their own imagination and not show them everything in words and pictures." So I pasted the entire manuscript on the walls of a 15 foot hallway and sat down in my wheelie chair to spend the evening rolling back and forth along the pages of the story to cut out the "unnecessary". A daunting task. I have to say, part of me was overwhelmed by the thought of this but another part of me was actually excited by the challenge and the direction. I had a serious task at hand and over the course of one evening (the deadline was one, maybe two days tops) I managed to have 500 words lying on the cutting room floor. It felt good, but I did have a sense of remorse for a few of my favorite stanzas that did not make the cut. The publisher and I then went back and forth several times with edits and revisions and many times it was very benefical because she saw things from a fresh perspective. She saw things had had glossed over from reading and editing the story a million times before. In the end I still missed a few of my favorite concepts, but the reassurance came in remembering what the people I had gone to for professional feedback had said. Two friends who had read the story many times gave opinions I could honestly trust, the reading specialist at school who, bless her heart, who had read and edited the story with one evening notice and a complete stranger who was a writer of children's stories and the mother-in-law of a fellow mom at my son's school. This so called "stranger" who was amidst publishing her own children's book at the time, gave some of the best heartfelt advice which I will remember for a lifetime. She confirmed much of what the publisher said, without even knowing it and she also gave advice given to her from another children's book author who had told her to "cut out the unecessary and leave it behind." She had told her that the words will always be there for you if you need them, but for now your reader does not need them. She also said that when you write a story & publish it, remember to give the entire story over to your reader in the end. Once it is out in the world it is not yours anymore, it becomes THEIR story to interpret and enjoy however they please. This was a great perspective and helped me to detach and not be so stuck in the process of the story. Looking back this was amazing advice. One year later I do not miss the things that were cut from the story. The only time I even think of those certain aformentioned stanzas is when I am amidst a reading to a group of kids and I find myself reciting things that are no longer in the book. It trips me up for a moment, but the kids rarely notice and I usually chuckle to myself as I see how close I was to the story that I actually had most of it memorized–because I knew it by heart.