For the first writing workshop I took in my young adult novel and fielded some pretty good questions regarding my manuscript.
For my second workshop I took in a picture book and its accompanying query letter.
This particular book began six years ago at about fifteen hundred words, well too long for a picture book. At the time I was going for a story book kind of vibe. After ten rejections or so I sat on it for a while, you know, had some kids, moved once, etc.
The second cut brought it down under a thousand. I was much happier with it, but it went through another ten rejections or so. I sat on it again through another move and another baby.
The third cut brought it down under six hundred words and was about as bare bones as I could get it and still leave it complete. I did a little more research on query letters and cut a couple of sentences that evidenced my novice status. But I still felt the silent dagger as the six weeks slipped by as one and another forewent claiming my little work.
So, to the workshop I carried my little book.
I believe I threw it down and said something like, “Please, tell me what’s wrong with it!”
For starters, the woman who read my piece out loud could hardly keep from laughing from one sentence to another. Everyone around the table was near riotous when she finished. I was not expecting this and it shook me a bit. It was pleasant, but surprising. I mean, I had thought it was funny, but this funny?
And then the feedback came. One lady wanted to hear more about this, another wanted more about that, and so on, naming almost every piece I had cut out over the previous six years.
I confessed, “Well, yes, originally this was followed by a bit that went like this.”
Riotous laughter! Everyone loved it! “Why would you have left that out?!”
So, I’m getting slowly frustrated because how on Earth am I supposed to squeeze all this into a picture book? And if it is indeed this good already then what on Earth am I doing here?
And then someone asked, “Have you considered making it an early reader?”
A light bulb clicked on centimeters above my head.
I didn’t hear anything after that. My little manuscript would lend itself well to the playful vignettes of an early reader. The only problem is that this would change my writing style. I couldn’t use any of those long elegant sentences I was so very fond of. Sigh. I love commas if you haven’t been able to tell. And the story vocabulary would need to be altered. My story may live, but in a drastically different manifestation.
So, I’ve been playing with it and I think I like where it’s going. It does appear I have signed on for a few more years, though. And I’ve heard early readers are harder to sell. Is this true? Anyone?
At any rate, she loved my query letter, so that’s something.
Chip, chip, chipping away!