Hello world!

I think it was my good old friend Ernest Hemingway who said “The only kind of writing is rewriting.” And ain’t that the truth? Proven to me in spectacular fashion in last weeks of 2017.

Earlier in the year I blogged about writing picture books and how hard writing 500 words can be. (It was one of my most popular posts in 2017, so I guess there are a lot of us wrestling with this.) At the time I was tearing my hair out over one measly line. I had written and rewritten it umpteen times until, after hours of hard slog, it started to sing. I worked on this manuscript for many months. Writing. Rewriting. Finessing. Making dummy books. Reading it out loud. Recording it and listening to it back, until at last I felt it was ready to show my agent.

Happily, she loved it! Unhappily, my publisher wasn’t so keen. She felt it was clever and unique, but sadly not clever and unique enough for her to want to publish it. Whoosh! There I was hurtling down that rollercoaster once more.

So my agent sent it to another publisher. Her feedback was filled with encouraging words such as “lovely language” “captivating” and “very clever”. But for whatever reason it still wasn’t enough.

At this point I took stock – something wasn’t quite right. Maybe I was being too clever? I had to make a choice – keep on sending it out or rewrite it AGAIN.

I chose to rewrite. Well, in truth, the manuscript made the decision for me. Because it kept showing me ways to improve it. And I’m not talking about tweaking a line here or changing a scenario there – I mean taking that clever idea, giving it a good old shake and telling it in a totally different way. So this is what I did. Many times. So many many times.

Eventually, I came to realise that the story idea might be clever and unique, but the execution lacked character and heart. This was my light bulb moment during a dreamy morning gloaming. So in the light of a new day, I threw all the words into the air and rewrote it once more. This time quite quickly because I had worked on it so much I knew the character like a childhood friend – I just had to let him loose and give him his own voice.

So, the good news is that after months of REWRITING and RETHINKING and REWRITING those measly 500 words, my agent AND my publisher loves this new version and an offer was made just before Christmas. (A lovely Christmas present, that’s for sure.) The other brilliant news is that Annie White has agreed to illustrate it. Annie is illustrating my picture book BEWARE THE DEEP DARK FOREST and it is looking delicious! (Out in October.)

I reckon I have written 10000 words to get to these 500 and I know there will be more editing to come.

But you know what Ernest says: THE ONLY KIND OF WRITING IS REWRITING.

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  1. Lovely news, Sue. And so true about rewriting. I too had a pre-Christmas present acceptance for Ben Bagley, the picture book I have been re-writing for five years and which you initially sent down the re-write track. I pulled out the two versions and compared them – the difference was astonishing. Yay for rewriting!

  2. Wow! What a wonderful outcome. It always makes me cringe when I hear someone say that writing picture books is easy. I think some stories are easier to write than others. But, picture books are not as easy to write as some may think. Sue, your post has inspired me to rework some of my picture book manuscripts I’ve put in the bottom drawer. Maybe it’s time to dust them off and have another go at them. I’m ready for the rewrite.

  3. Love reading this, Sue. Perseverance, looking at things differently, all wonderful advice. I shall keep at it! Congrats on your new contract. Sounds very well deserved 🙂

  4. This resonates and is funny because it is true, Sue. Painfully, butt-annoyingly true. But I find the rewrite is also one of the most perversely satisfying challenges of being a writer. Beaut post. Dim x

  5. Every single word in your blog post is soooo true Sue. Sometimes the word ‘rewrite’ can be terrifying, actually, all the time it’s terrifying. It’s always worth the effort and Beware the Deep Dark Forest surely will be. Congratulations on the book and the honest blog post.

  6. Debra Tidball on said:

    SO true, Sue. I’m on the same path now! Every word of a picture book has blood, sweat and tears all over it! We can literally spend days over one word or punctuation mark! Congrats on the acceptance, and thanks for sharing.

  7. Oh thank you Sue – so encouraging to read. (Just came across this post, from January? Like a proverbial tortoise, I am. Slow and late, but get there in the end!)