Talking Revisions with Author Lauren H. Kerstein

Revise, revise, revise! How many times have you heard this advice? It sounds so much easier than it is. That’s why I’m looking forward to #ReVISIONWeek—a new writing challenge launching one month from today. Joining me to talk all things REVISION is my friend and critique partner, author Lauren H. Kerstein. Lauren is one of my go-tos for writing advice, and I’m excited to share her insights with you!

LL: Hi, Lauren! You're one of several co-creators of #ReVISIONWeek. How did you come up with the idea, and what can we expect?

LK: I love online challenges where our writing community comes together to stretch our creative brains and flex our writing muscles. I roll from Tara Lazar’s StoryStorm to Paula Yoo’s NAPIBOWRIWEE (National Picture Book Writing Week) to ReFoReMo (Reading for Research) to #FireButt challenges, and I’ve been a member of Julie Hedlund’s 12x12 for about five years.

The wonderful outcome of these challenges is that I have lots of new ideas and picture book drafts. But these drafts require LOTS of attention in order to be ready for submission. It occurred to me that I really needed a week (or a year or ten) dedicated to digging in and revising these stories.

And so… ReVISIONweek was born! I am thrilled to host this challenge with Michal Babay, Katie Frawley, Lynne Marie, Joana Pastro, and Shannon Stocker.

I will tell you a little bit about what you can expect, but since this is our inaugural year, I’m truly looking forward to seeing what we’ll build together throughout the week. I am excited about the magic we will create as we transform our piles of sand into castles (thank you Shannon Hale for the image.)

You can expect:

  • Support from the ReVISIONweek team as well as the writing community.
  • Tips that will guide you both through ReVISIONweek and hopefully stay with you throughout the year as you revise, revise, revise.
  • Prizes like signed books and critiques! There is nothing like the carrot of a prize to get your creative juices flowing!
  • The opportunity to truly immerse yourself in the act of revising, whether you choose to tackle one manuscript, or multiple manuscripts throughout the week.
  • A fun, rewarding, and enriching week!
  • The satisfaction that comes from polishing your manuscripts until they shine.

LL: This sounds great! We all know revisions can be so tough. In your opinion, what are the most challenging aspects of revising a picture book manuscript?

LK: I think the most challenging aspect of revising a picture book manuscript is looking through the objective eye that is so sorely needed in order to “kill your darlings” and truly distill your story down to its essence—to the heart. Finding that objectivity is critical.

LL: Your debut, ROSIE THE DRAGON & CHARLIE MAKE WAVES, was published in June—and it's fabulous, by the way. Take us through your revision process for that story.

LK: Oh, thank you! You were instrumental, my awesome CP, in helping me launch Rosie and Charlie into the world.

Wow! The revision process for this manuscript was rather lengthy, but the voice and personality of these characters never changed. I had a very clear sense of who they were, what they wanted, and how they’d react. Their emotional core didn’t shift. Their wishes and desires didn’t change even when I switched the mommy to a dragon and bedtime to swimming.
Honestly,  Rosie and Charlie began as a “how to” put your mommy to bed book. I wrote it as a challenge to myself during NAPIBOWRIWEE.

Then, critiquers said: “Make it unique.”

Hmmmm…

How about a dragon…

...who wants to…

SWIM!?

I revised and revised and revised it to hone in on the true heart of these characters. I took out every excess word or image. I dummied it until I felt like it moved well into each scene. I added as much visual language as possible. And then, I revised it again to include real swimming skills per the fabulous feedback of Deborah Warren (who then signed me!)

Then an editor asked, “Can you rewrite this as a character-focused manuscript with a more typical structure?”

I said, “OF COURSE!”

And then I revised again!

Welcome ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE MAKE WAVES!

And... I’m thrilled to say that ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE SAY GOOD NIGHT (also illustrated by the brilliant Nate Wragg) will be out Fall 2020.

My actual process looks like editing on my computer (I use Google Docs) to make sure every single spread reflects the humor, characters’ personalities, and heart of the story. Then I print a hard copy to check my edits. I read it out loud to myself and then I have my daughters read it out loud to me to make sure it sounds right. Then I revise again. Rinse. Wash. Repeat.

LL: I love “Rinse, Wash, Repeat”. You're known for the Quick-Read Crafty Tips on your blog. What are your top tips for revisions?

LK: My top tips are:

  1. Save new versions each time you revise. Keep the old because you never know when you’ll want to come back to an old version.
  2. Don’t be afraid to take risks and cut more than you initially thought possible.
  3. If you hone in on the heart and emotional current running through your manuscript (I know that isn’t easy), you can revise more effectively.
  4. Trust yourself! If you see a problem, but are afraid to tackle it, trust that you will find a way.
  5. Every single word has to earn the right to be in your manuscript.

LL: Okay, I’m ready to revise now! One last question about ReVISIONWeek: how do we join in the fun?

LK: You can join the fun by signing up for my blog, Insight and Inspiration, so that you receive updates. Watch for a post on or around Labor Day on which you will be able to comment with your name to sign up. We can’t wait to revise with you the week of September 16th-22nd.

 

Want to support the authors bringing you #ReVISIONWeek?

BOOKS:

Rosie the Dragon & Charlie Make Waves by Lauren H. Kerstein

Can U Save the Day? by Shannon Stocker

Moldilocks and the Three Scares: A Zombie Tale by Lynne Marie

Coming in 2020:

Lillybelle, A Damsel Not In Distress by Joana Pastro

 

Check out #FireButtChallenge created by Katie Frawley and Michal Babay

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