Well, the text is done! After a few rounds of editing (e.g. many, many, many rounds) with both alpha readers and a proper editor, I am feeling quite good about it. I’m happy with the message. I’m happy with the story flow. I’m happy with the rhythm of the verses. I’m happy with the rhymes.
So, why do I feel like I should still be editing?
The editing process, to date
Editing has definitely been a journey. Looking back, I wrote my first draft nearly 3 months ago.
Ok, all of you seasoned writers, please stop laughing. I know that is not that long ago. In my defense, 3 months in pandemic time is roughly 4 1/2 years. I’ve also seemed to have gotten a lot done.
Step 1: Research the publishing process
I strongly felt the need to publish this book since the first (terrible) draft. Well, since before that, if I’m being honest. So, I decided to research the publication process early on to find out exactly what I am getting myself into.
First came the research to compare traditional publishing with self-publishing. I ruled out traditional publishing pretty quickly for 2 reasons:
- It seems to be extremely hard to make a profit from it, if I can find someone to accept the book in the first place. I’m not looking to get rich, but breaking even at a minimum is definitely a goal here.
- I am a total control freak. That is, perhaps, not the most PC way of phrasing that, but the idea of someone else having a say in major decisions about this book is not something I am comfortable with.
Self-publishing it is! I researched and subsequently spoke with two different self-publishing companies. Both were completely supportive and loved the manuscript, even in it’s first-draft form. One even told me that I should publish the book, even if I do not publish it with them. That comment was almost better than a hug.
These self-publishing companies basically guide authors through all of the different steps towards publishing a book - editing, proofreading, illustration, book design, printing, and even warehousing and marketing. Amazing, especially for a first-time author who knows nothing.
Also, super expensive. Prohibitively so, at least for my comfort level.
Step 2: Figure out self-publishing, solo
This step basically involved doing comprehensive research on each step of the publication process for a picture book. I used the information I got from the self-publishing companies as a starting point, and then started compiling some giant to-do lists for each step.
To be honest, I am still in this step.
So far, I have a good handle on the logistics of the editing process (more on that in a bit), an OK handle on the illustration and book design process, and a giant pile of “figure out this at some point” tasks that pertain to marketing. (Starting this series of blog posts is part of that - hi!)
Step 3: Actually editing
Throughout steps 1 and 2, I started the editing process because, frankly, my first draft was the book equivalent of pseudocode.12
Ok, my first draft was a little better than pseudocode, but it needed some changes.
As I was editing, I joined Reedsy, where is both where I took a few super-beginner “how to publish a book” (free) courses and how I found an editor. My editor was great! She gave me some great honest feedback about my manuscript, which, at the point where she saw it, was around draft 5.
In the meantime, I also joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and posted my draft manuscript there for feedback as well. (The more, the merrier, right?)
I got quite a bit of feedback there, mostly about the rhythm of my verses. (The book is essentially a poem) To be honest, I couldn’t hear the issues. It was like having some code that you know is good, but your browser keeps complaining that it can’t read it. You just know there is a missing semi-colon somewhere, but you have absolutely no idea where because you’ve been staring at it for way too long.3
I put the book down for a few weeks, picked it back up, made some edits, then posted the edits. Still more rhythm issues. I. Could. Not. Hear. Them. Frustrated, I decided to rubber-ducky method this problem.4
However, instead of talking about my problem to the rubber ducky, I decided to sing to my rubber ducky. I made up a tune and sang each book verse to that same tune.5 If I had a hard time fitting the words to the tune, then I would know where my rhythm issues are.
Wow, did I find issues that way! Where the rhythm worked - and where it didn’t - became glaringly obvious. I rewrote about half the book after that exercise and, I think, came out with a much stronger book. In my truly unexperienced opinion, I highly recommend trying this if you’re stuck, even if you make up a Gregorian chant for your verses.6
After several more rounds of editing after that, I think I’m done? I mean, I feel like if I continue to edit, I will never be done, which is the classic issue of trying to write an app and waiting to ship it until it is perfect. If you keep tweaking it and tweaking it until you decide it is perfect, you will never actually ship it. Or, at the very least, you will ship it much, much later than you really want to.
So, that’s where I am now. I feel like the text is done - or at least done enough. I will likely go through one more round to have someone proofread it, but then I am putting this down to start the illustration process.
Stay tuned for my next post, where I talk about using spreadsheets to search for the perfect illustrator! (If you think I’m kidding, just wait.)
- Pseudocode is computer-speak for when you write out what you want your function to do before you actually write your computer code.
- It occurs to me that, for the first time possibly ever, my blog will be read by non-technical people. If you have been to literally any other part of my website, you have probably realized that I am a professional nerd. So, welcome non-computer people! I can’t promise that I will not make comparisons between book writing and programming, but I can promise that I will try to explain any nerdisms here.
- Punctuation is ridiculously important in most programming languages - more important than you’d think. This is not true for all of them, but it is in the ones I tend to write in.
- The “rubber ducky method” is a strategy that programmers use to solve problems, where we talk to a rubber ducky. Yes, really. We tell a rubber ducky our problem and, in the course of actually verbalizing the problem, we start talking out a solution. It really does work.
- No, I will not sing it for you. It is truly terrible. Just don’t ask.
- Gregorian chant example