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Editing is Listening
Copyright 2023 © by Jim Potter
There’s editing while writing a personal draft copy of your book and there’s editing after you’ve shared your early literary work with others.
I’ve limited showing my full book’s draft copy to three people: J. Alex Potter, my first reader; Gina Laiso, the book’s illustrator; and Joelle René, a writer-artist friend. But I’ve discussed the book with others. My most recent blog post gave a detailed update of my progress, including a look at the book’s introduction by K-9 Kudzu and most of chapter one, “A is for Accident.”
My cave is an ideal place to enjoy writing. It’s usually a near solitary adventure. However, once I have a draft of a book, it’s invaluable to receive feedback from writers I respect.
In sharing this week’s progress on Kudzu’s Guide to Law Enforcement: Observations from a Working Dog Who Loves to Play, the book continues to evolve due to seven people and a dog.
Here’s a shout out to the most recent encouragers:
- Joelle René
- Miriam Iwashige
- J. Alex Potter
- Nancy Julien Kopp
- Ginger Zyskowski
- Karis Ens
- Gina Laiso
Joelle, writer-artist, suggested I show Kudzu using his sensory abilities throughout the book, including his instinctive investigative skills sniffing along a trail, and his playful moments—like chasing a squirrel—showing he’s still a dog.
Miriam, writer-blogger, encouraged me to continue my educational approach of including an extensive list of vocabulary words that could cause the smartest middle school student to reach for a dictionary or google the word. Miriam said: “I’m impressed with how much information you’re packing into this story. That list of other ‘A’ words would have delighted my 12-year-old self and added a great deal of value to the book.”
Alex, artist-sculptor, reinforced Miriam’s opinion that children like to learn things above their grade level. That’s why Alex suggested the appendix include the phonetic police alphabet and a list of law enforcement ten-codes.
The encouragement from Miriam and Alex modeled my instincts. Don’t dumb things down. Instead, write a great book and don’t worry about its reading level.
(To read the story of “Sid, Rhonda, and The Boys,” click here SID)
Nancy Julien Kopp, writer-blogger, offered a spot-on tip for editing K-9 Kudzu’s Guide to Law Enforcement. She wrote:
“I’m enjoying following your creation of a children’s book. I have one small suggestion. In the Q and A section where the question is asked if the dog has ever bitten anyone. He mentions that he has bitten Tom several times when playing ball, and that it was an accident. I wonder if using the word ‘nip’ would make the children realize it is just a little bite, not a full bite. Some kids are really afraid of dogs. Just a thought I had as I read.”
I immediately agreed with Nancy’s concern about children’s (anyone’s) fear of dogs. Now, Kudzu will not bite or nip Tom or anyone else. Instead, I’m addressing the fact that people fear dogs and I’ve added another word to my vocabulary lists. In the chapter “C is for Car,” between the words certificate and chase, you’ll find cynophobia. Yeah, I know, it’s not a middle school word.
The following is a Facebook link to an essay written by Nancy titled “Musing on Editing Your Writing.”
Ginger Zyskowski is a poet-painter-percussionist who’s getting closer to publishing an exciting book (structured in alphabetical order) that’s “not just a children’s book.” Titled, In A Word, “it’s a mix of stories and poems and illustrations” for any age. Ginger and I were talking about the process of writing a book when she asked, “Do you ever get the book you planned?” I laughed and answered. “Not me. It’s always evolving.”
That’s what’s happening right now with K-9 Kudzu. Positive people are giving me important feedback well beyond a Facebook “like.” It’s constructive criticism–people suggesting how my work can be improved. They’re encouragers, extremely important on a long journey. If they were being negative, I’d ignore them or throw them overboard.
Note: Listening doesn’t mean agreeing. If I made every recommended change, it wouldn’t be my book. Plus, I’d be like Rocky, running around in circles chasing his tail.
Karis Ens, author of children’s books, and so much more, commented: “I like it that you blog about your writing progress. Keep up the great work!” Karis’s book, A Girl and Her Cat, was a book I studied when I was deciding about whether to print K-9 Kudzu in black and white or in color since it has illustrations.
Braven (2022) written by Kim Martin; illustrated by Gina Laiso, Integrita Productions.
Gina Laiso, book designer, cover artist, formatter, and illustrator, encouraged us when we created a new title, despite its length. Best of all, Gina shared some photos and videos of canine Rocky, her Rhodesian Ridgeback/Boxer mix.
Rocky reminds me to find the time to have fun. In the following video, he’s ready to play. Watch his tail vibrating and his whole body inviting Gina to chase him. He shouts: “Play tag with me, Gina!”
Video by Gina Laiso.
Until next time, happy writing,
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Nancy Julien Kopp says
I fully agree with Alex regarding not dumbing the story down for Middle Grade readers. Kids of that age are more sophisticated now than we were at the same age. They also like to learn new things, especially big words like ‘cynophobia.’ When I was teaching 4th grade, the Mary Poppins movie was popular, and the word in a song that took the country by storm. supercalifragilisticexpialidocious was the word, and every child in my class learned to pronounce it and spell it. Even the ones who got words like ‘curtain’ wrong on a spelling test! Using bigger words in a book is helping kids learn.
Jim Potter says
Nancy, agreed. Children are less likely to be underestimated today. The trick is to connect with them and let them connect with something that excites them. Thanks again for your help.
Gloria Zachgo says
Wow, some good and thoughtful feedback.
Jim Potter says
Gloria, yes, caring people! Six of the seven peeps were or are KAC members.