My Mum retired recently and I have been trying to encourage her to write something (since she is so bored; Hi Mum!). She is currently writing her second children’s book (based upon her three grandchildren) and this got me thinking about how I go about editing for different audiences.
Writing for children (5, 2 and 0) is quite challenging (trust me, I tried writing poetry for children… it didn’t go so well! =] ) but my Mum has the ‘knack’! She understands what children would find interesting in a story line and creates a plot line really well for the age she is aiming at (the kids ask for the first book every time they come round, *sigh*).
However, editing down these stories takes time since we are not only thinking about the plot line, words they know, words the ‘next level’ up for them to learn, but also about turning the book into a picture book.
Most children’s picture books (for the age we are writing for) don’t have that many words around the pictures. We want the kids (especially the eldest) to be able to read the book if they wanted. If there are too many words on one page she can gets overwhelmed and struggles to read.
For this second book I want to really simplify the language, but also make it enjoyable to read. The key to editing something down to the ‘bare bones’, as what is needed for a picture book, is to make sure the key elements are shown and presented.
To start this editing process, I check how many key ‘images’ or ‘scenes’ there are in the book. Once I’ve found this, I think about what words are going round each picture and how this will look on the page (editing down as I go to make sure things still make grammatical sense and are also concise and simplistic for them to understand and read).
Kids pick up on ‘missing things’ ( i.e. if your character suddenly doesn’t have a hat on in the picture but it not being said in the book) quite quickly and ask questions about these so it’s always best to think about your book from their point of view and fill these in accordingly. Reading other children’s books can really help; just like writing a poem, it always helps to look at different examples to help you really capture your target audience.
Obviously, editing for a picture book is completely different from how I would edit a poem or short story but the basics of editing stay the same (researching your audience, reading similar styles, finding the main plot line/concept and trying to edit down according to the form of the piece and trying to keep the tone and style even throughout).
What’s the most unusual thing you have had to edit and what form do you love it edit the most?
I look forward to hearing from you and if there’s anything you would like me to help edit, don’t hesitate to ask!