Day 6, just one more day to go. Hang in there everyone!
Sudipta has written lots of fun picture books. Chicks Run Wild is a big favorite of ours, perhaps because of our own silly chickens. Take it away, Sudipta!
To Be? No! Not TO BE!
As writers, revision is a part of our lives. A totally unwanted yet unavoidable part of our lives. Like ear wax or belly button lint.
Or maybe…maybe ear wax and belly button lint aren’t like revision. Maybe…revision is more like the removal process of ear wax or belly button lint.
(At this point, someone should award me a trophy for the use the phrase “belly button lint” repeatedly in a writing-related blog post. Thank you. Thank you very much.)
Maybe it is the words that we need to trim off that are like ear wax or belly button lint, and revision just leaves our manuscripts cleaner, fresher, and more sparkly. And less waxy.
Maybe revision shouldn’t be so unwanted.
There are many ways to revise manuscripts to get them submission-ready. It would be impossible to point out all the strategies in a single blog post (in fact, I’ll be teaching a whole class on picture book revision this year at Kidlit Writing School! www.kidlitwritingschool.com). So, instead, I wanted to share one important, universal, deceptively simple yet incredibly powerful way to revise your work to make the writing stronger:
NO MORE TO BE
No, that’s not some Yoda-speak wisdom that you need to mull and decipher. Very simply, I want you to go through your manuscript and try to remove every form of the verb “to be.” So that means go look for the following words:
be, am, are, is, was, were, been
When you find these words, think of them as ear wax or belly button lint and get rid of them. Because almost every time you use one of these forms of “to be,” you are telling, not showing.
When you write, “She was mad,” you’ve told me what your character is feeling. When you revise it to, “Her jaw clenched and lasers practically shot out of her eyes,” you show me her feelings without having to tell me.
“We were terrified” is a tell. “We trembled like leaves” or “Our hearts pounded so loud it sounded like a bass line” is a show.
“She’s been sad all day” is a tell. “She cried until there were no tears left” is a show.
Obviously, you will never get rid of every instance of “to be” in a manuscript (just like you will never get rid of every last bit of ear wax or belly button lint!). There are many, many times when be, am, are, is, was, were, and been are essential. But as a place to start in the revision and tightening process, looking for “to be” can help you quickly identify parts of your manuscript that could use a second look and a bit of a makeover.
Show, don’t tell is the mantra of our industry. Even experienced writers have moments when they struggle with this (I know I still do on a daily basis). But I’ll bet you’ll be amazed at how this simple trick – getting rid of “to be” – will take your writing from telling to showing.
Thank you Sudipta! One lucky reviser will win a critique from Sudipta! Watch for the Rafflecopters so you can to win on the 18th!
Starting on January 26, Sudipta is teaching a course on Character Building in Picture Books at Kidlit Writing School. For more information, visit this link: http://www.kidlitwritingschool.com/picture-book-a-to-zs-character-building.html