Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Picture Book Dummy Behind Norbert's Big Dream - From Revision to Success with Lori Degman

http://amzn.to/1R7Ha15
Thanks so much for asking me to write a post for your blog, Lynne Marie!! 

In thinking about what I could share, I focused on what helped me the most with my upcoming picture book, Norbert’s Big Dream.  I’ve written many blog posts in the past – usually having something to do with writing in rhyme, as my first two books are rhymers.  But, Norbert is my first non-rhymer, so I thought I’d write about something non-rhymey (hey – if Dr. Seuss can make up words!).

In November of 2013, I attended our annual Illinois SCBWI conference, Prairie Writers and Illustrators Day, which was about a year before I sold Norbert.  One of the sessions I attended was “Dummies for Smarties: The Relationship Between Story and Design”, presented by Sylvie Frank from Paula Wiseman Books.  I’d never made a book dummy before and decided to work on Norbert’s Big Dream at this session.  Even though I felt Norbert was “submission ready”, I thought creating a dummy might help me improve it. 

To make the dummy, we cut four pieces of printing paper into quarters and stapled them together along one edge, to make a 32-page book.  If you want a larger book, you can cut or fold 16 pieces of paper in half.  I think Sylvie was trying to save a tree, which I appreciated! 

We left the first three pages for the title page, copyright information and dedication and started the text of the story on page 4.  We then cut the sentences of our story and placed them on the pages of the dummy.  Once we were happy with where they were, we glued them on the pages. (Hint: use just a little glue because you’re bound to make changes.)  I sometimes drew very crude sketches (the only kind I know how to draw) or I wrote a short note about what I thought the illustration could be. 

Deciding where to put each sentence, and sometimes dividing sentences, was more challenging than I’d expected.  I was surprised at how many changes I ended up making on a story with such a low word count. 

Here’s how creating a dummy for Norbert helped me:

1 - I thought more visually about the story.  I was forced to imagine where the illustrations would go on each page.

2 - I cut some of the text because I could see how the illustrations could/should replace them. 

3 – I broke up sentences or paragraphs where there was a change of action or scene.

4 - I spotted redundancies and cut some of them.

5 – I could see the pacing more clearly, making it easier to break up the text to build tension and lead to a satisfying conclusion.

6 - I sequenced events in a more logical order.

7 – I created more compelling page turns.

8 - I improve word choice.  Seeing the sentence alone on the page allowed me to think solely about that one sentence, making it more obvious when the language needed to be tightened or enriched.

http://amzn.to/1U474cl
9 - After the dummy was finished, reading the “book” allowed me to more objectively judge its readability and flow.

10 – I couldn’t wait to get home and rewrite the story!

In the end, the manuscript that was accepted had the same word count (three words less) but it was a more tightly written and a better-paced story that left lots of room for the illustrator to do his thing!  So, when you finish a manuscript and think it’s ready to submit to an editor or agent, take the time to create a dummy before sending it out – you may be surprised how “not ready” it really is!

http://amzn.to/1XdufPI
I have a bonus tip for you - Two of the three manuscripts I sold were bought by editors I’d met at SCBWI conferences.  So, I highly recommend going to conferences and following up with submissions to editors and agents who presented there.  Both of my editors spoke at smaller, state-level conferences, so you don’t have to go to the huge, international conferences in NY and LA (though they’re amazing).


BIO:
Lori Degman is teacher of the deaf by day and an award winning picture book author by night, weekend and school holiday. She has three picture books: 1 Zany Zoo, Simon & Schuster (Cheerios New Author Contest winner & Mom’s Choice Award); Cock-a-Doodle Oops!, Creston Books (2015 International Literacy Association Honor Book & Mom’s Choice Award); and Norbert’s Big Dream, Sleeping Bear Press, coming August, 2016.  

You can find Lori at: Loridegman.com, on Facebook or Twitter.  Contact her at Lori@Loridegman.com.

You can find more information about her books, including teacher’s guides, on her website: http://loridegman.com/loridegman.com/Books.html

Here are links to the book trailers for 1 Zany Zoo https://youtu.be/SNZTVS99l0k and Cock-a-Doodle Oopshttps://youtu.be/NQg9RyO9dM4



40 comments:

  1. This was an informative post! Thanks for sharing your process, Lori!

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  2. I agree, @Sherry Howard. Thanks for stopping by My Word Playground!

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  3. Great interview! I find making a dummy very helpful. It's great advice for aspiring authors.

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  4. Love Lori's books and have them on my shelf. Thank you, Lori and Lynne Marie, for a great interview on the dummy process.

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  5. @Miranda Paul and @Charlotte Dixon -- I agree with you both, and of course, you are very welcome! Thanks for stopping by My Word Playground.

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  6. I always think of the dummy being the tool of the illustrator, but it's so good to remember to use that tool as a writer. Thanks for the reminder!

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    1. I used to think the same thing, Kat - until I did this dummy. I was surprised how much it helped!

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  7. Yes, so true, Kat McD! Thanks for stopping by My Word Playground. Come back again -- there are always treasures to be mined here.

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  8. Love this very helpful, very true assessment of what the dummy process can do for you, Lori! The same is true of a story board. I have a giant one. :)

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    1. I never tried a story board - maybe for my next story!

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  9. I agree, Carrie Charley Brown -- glad to have you stop back at My Word Playground!

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  10. Another nugget of goodness from Lori! Thanks!

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  11. Very helpful information - Thanks so much1

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  12. I love this! Thanks for sharing your process. You listed some advantages for making a dummy that I had not thought of.

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    1. Honestly, Angela, I didn't know how helpful it was going to be until I did it! I'm thankful to Sylvie for her breakout session!

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  13. Enjoyed the post. Thanks so much. I have a PB that I can't quite seem to get right. I'll give this a try with it.

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    1. I hope it helps - I feel sure it will!

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  14. Thanks for a fabulous post and a great reminder of how making dummies is essential in polishing a story!

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    1. I'm sure people have read about dummies before but sometimes, hearing about things in a new way is helpful!

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  15. Love this, Lori! I agree, helps so so so much! :)

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  16. Couldn't be a more timely reminder of the benefits of working in this visual way.

    Thank you

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  17. Per Lori sharing about her dummy in this blog post....I made my first-ever dummy! I've always thought I should make a dummy, but never have. I did this with a pretty polished manuscript but have already removed some words and rearranged. It also helped me see a few weak sentences. Pretty amazing tool. I actually laid mine out like a storyboard on my dining room table. I tried the dummy first but found I wanted to see my words and move them easily. For the storyboard, I didn't use glue but just laid sentences in place on spreads.
    Thanks, Lori! And thanks, Lynne, for having her :D

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    1. Awww, thanks, Penny for sharing, and for visiting! So glad to have you here! We always allow dragons to visit, too, at My Word Playground, so please bring him next time :)

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    2. Thanks for sharing that, Penny! I was amazed how much it helped me - it's funny how seeing your story in another form can help you see it with fresh eyes! Let us know when the story sells :-)

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  18. Like Penny, I've always known that creating a dummy is a good idea. Unlike Penny, I've not done it. Well this post is working on me and I think, I'm gonna have to do it with mss that just are coming together the way I envision them. I may just even share my results when done. Thank you so much for this post. Wonderful information.

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    1. I agree! So glad you were able to stop by My Word Playground, Pam! Feel free to mine the archives for treasures. So many gems there!

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    2. Please do share the results, Pam! I can't wait to hear about it!

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