Sunday, 30 April 2017

Whose book is this anyway? Lari Don

This month, I’ve been working with editorial notes on two different books – a novel and a picture book - and I’ve noticed slight differences in how I’m responding to those notes.

Obviously with any editorial notes, there’s the immediate emotional punch of ‘oh no, she doesn’t like it, it doesn’t work, she didn’t understand it, my story is RUINED!’ Then reality kicks in and I remember that the book always works in the end, and that editors are A Good Thing.

So I settle down and consider every single comment, suggestion and request, and work out how to respond, ie how much to change, how much to compromise, how much to defend the story as it stands.

And I’ve realised that, while equally open to every comment, I do seem to have a different attitude depending on whether we’re working on a novel or a picture book.

A novel feels like my vision, my story. So I will usually be happy to tweak, and often, if I agree, I will make major changes, but if I disagree, I will instead explain why I'd prefer not to change the direction of the story.

However, a picture book never feels like just my story, it feels like a team effort with the editor, illustrator and designer. So I’m much more likely to throw out a cherished sentence or scene in a picture book, much more likely to change direction entirely, in order to create the text that will support the best possible pictures.

I don’t want to give the impression (particularly not to my editors!) that I ignore editorial advice in novels or that I don’t feel passionate about the words in my picture books, just that I seem to approach them with a slightly different attitude. The novel is my story, and I’m happy to take advice about the best way to tell it, but the picture book is OUR story, and my words are only one part of that. So, my response to notes is based on that difference.

Whatever age group or genre I’m writing for, it’s always a bracing combination of illuminating, positive and painful to see my still soft and malleable draft story through someone else’s critical eyes. But it’s always worth doing!

I genuinely believe that books are BETTER when they have been worked on together by a talented editor and a confident writer.

However, I’ve realised this spring that even though I will weigh up each comment carefully, I clearly lean slightly more towards accepting the suggestions when redrafting a picture book, and slightly more towards proving my case for the original idea when redrafting a novel.

I wonder if any other writers feel that they respond differently to editorial notes depending on the story, the project, or even (!) the editor?

Right. Back to those notes and my responses...

Lari Don is the award-winning author of more than 20 books for all ages, including fantasy novels for 8 – 12s, picture books, retellings of traditional tales, a teen thriller and novellas for reluctant readers. 

1 comment:

Rowena House said...

I've not experienced a picture book editor, but the editors I have worked with (for a short story & a novel) were the best readers I could have wanted: they spotted core issues which needed addressing, then left me to work out what to do about them. Each time, the story became much stronger for it. It must be fascinating to have a sense of collaboration on a picture book. For the short story I'm working on now, it's almost become a piece of theatre in my mind's eye, an intense duologue which I've cast with two actors I know well. Would love to experiment working with them to develop it.