What I learned about writing while making a book dummy

It’s done! I’ve revised, shared with my writing group, revised again, and again (and again….) until I finally reached the conclusion that I’ve got a polished picture book manuscript ready to submit to an agent or editor.  Yea, me! That’s when I  remembered to make a book dummy of my precious manuscript. And I realize I should have done it long before I got to this point!

A book dummy simply takes the text you have been lovingly crafting and puts it in the form of a real live book. This exercise helped me to make sure the manuscript fit into the structure of a picture book. Illustrators use a dummy to test their ideas for pictures, since I’m not an illustrator mine are usually text only–unless my granddaughter is handy, then she will provide the pictures.

Picture books are comprised of 32 pages, but did you know that at least two, and sometimes up to eight of those pages are not available for your story or illustrations? If you are not sure how the pages lay out in a picture book, hop over to Tara Lazar’s site (www.taralazar.com) and click on her picture book structure post. It will show you exactly how many pages you have to work with and how they line up.

Making a dummy of the picture book manuscript I have been revising over and over taught me the importance of pacing, page turns, and carefully chosen words. When I imagined the illustrations that would eventually accompany my text, I found words and sentences that would simply be a repetition of the illustration. Bam— entire sentences—gone!

One of the most enlightening parts of the exercise was seeing which sentences would be opposite each other on a two page spread. I ended up rearranging some of them so they would both tie into a single illustration. These changes also improved the read aloud quality of the manuscript.  In some places I added words when I realized that readers may not interpret my words that same way I do. An added bonus for me—it was the perfect proof-reading activity.

Recopying my words onto the pages highlighted the places where words, usually articles—a , an, or the—had  been lost during multiple revisions. I have read the manuscript over and over and never picked up on the missing words, even when reading it aloud.

I have no idea whether or not an editor or illustrator would put the page breaks in the same places that I did. But I know that going through the process helped me improve my manuscript’s chances of catching the eye of an agent or editor.

Happy writing!

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