Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Over the last couple months I finally felt like I had a good handle on this 
craft of writing, finally felt like the overwhelming sea of knowledge necessary
for me to learn was dwindling. My stories were perfect (though I couldn't 
help but tweak a few words here and there), I was developing my online 
presence as a children's writer, networking as best I could with the crazy
schedule I keep, and then I started reading, Writing Picture Books by Ann
Whitford Paul. Anyone aspiring to publish a children's book definitely needs
to read it. 

While I knew I still had much to learn, I didn't fully realize just how much
that was. One of the biggest lessons I have learned from the book so far is if 
a phrase, sentence or paragraph doesn't move your story forward, CUT IT! 
While this is probably not true of adult fiction, picture book writing requires 
"tight" writing. Ann Whitford Paul stressed repeatedly that every word has to 

With this new knowledge, I couldn't wait to revise my original story, the one
that started out at 1500 words (before I knew better). Last year I cut it down
to 800, after consulting with a freelance editor. Yesterday I probably reduced
it to 600 words. I didn't realize how many repetitive concepts were in my 
first story. I am happy with my revising so far and believe that the writing is
even stronger than before. 

It's amazing to read my first (unrevised) story and then to read my latest ones 
and see my growth as a writer. I can't wait to carve out some more time to 
revise my latest stories as well. It's so exciting. 

My next project (as recommended in chapter 17 of the book) is to make 
"dummy books" to figure out good page turning points. I'll probably let my 
3 year old help me with the pasting. She'd love it. 

I have to mention as a side note that while I have found this book a necessary
invaluable resource, I do disagree with the author on one point. She did 
emphasize not to attach morals or lessons one's stories, but that children's
books are to entertain. She said to leave the moral lessons to the educators
(paraphrase). I strongly believe in passing down morals through children's 
books. For ages, children's stories have been used to teach valuable life 
lessons, why would we stop that now? I have good friends who are teachers 
in our city schools and they are not allowed to teach any type of character
education except if a book they are reading opens a conversation. 
We are all entitled to our own opinions on the matter. That's one thing that
makes our nation great, but I'll agree to disagree with the author on this 

While cutting out some of my favorite phrases and descriptions felt like
taking a surgical blade to a part of my soul (dramatic, I know), I am so 
glad I took the author's advice despite the heartache. 


  1. Congratulations, Tanya! It sounds like you're working so hard! (Writing, mothering, being a wife, AND working outside the home...these are not for the faint-hearted. You're doing fantastic!)

    And I can assure you, those of us who write adult fiction struggle with TMI, too. I frequently have to go back and "cut" some of my favorite backstory/description/narrative and so forth! Ahhh, such is life...The neat thing though--the more we do it, the easier it gets. It still helps to have readers/critique partners, too.

    Happy writing! :)

  2. Thanks, Cynthia. I appreciate the encouragement.
    I would think cutting some of your backstory would
    be even harder since it would probably involve a lot
    more text. My family has been my critique team. I
    know I need to find a writing group, but I haven't
    been able to so far. I've searched online in the past.
    I wonder if there would be groups posted at the