Monday, 23 September 2019

Snerting Your Picture Book Text, by Pippa Goodhart


‘Snerting’ is a family word that has proved useful when thinking about writing. ‘Snerting’ is a sort of cross between ‘sneering’ and ‘editing’, appreciating nice things but also pointing out errors and possibly making suggestions for changes. My husband is often the first ‘snerter’ of my stories after I’ve done all I can. My daughters have been paid snerters for me in the past. And I’m lucky enough to have a patient and inspired agent who is a very expert, professional and kind snerter. 
But a writer must always critique their own work too, so I’ve put together some key points to consider when you are snerting your own picture book texts before sending them off to agents or editors.
Does my story or book game address the right age and interests for the picture book audience? Do the emotional issues in it resonate with the limited life experiences of young children? Is that emotional core of the story about something young children care about with a passion? 
-   Is my story balanced, starting by ‘asking’ and finishing by ‘answering’ the central story question? Does the middle part of my story rise to a crisis, perhaps just over half way through, before resolving?
   Do my characters come alive in my story? Would a reader feel that these characters have a fictional life beyond what is seen here? It’s only if characters are ‘believable’ and relatable (even if they are an animated potato) that we’ll care enough to mind what happens to them.
  If my picture book isn’t telling a story, but is instead presenting a game to share with the book audience, does that game actively involve the child audience enough?
  Does my text read aloud easily and pleasingly? That may involve rhythm, perhaps even some rhyme, but, first and foremost, it must mean that the story is clearly conveyed in sentences that don’t trip the reader up. Always read out loud to test it. Better still, get somebody else to read it out loud to you. 
  Is there something worthy of a new illustration after every page turn? Am I using page turns to best dramatic effect?
  Does every word in my text earn the space it is taking away from potential illustration? If I cut a line, a paragraph, a word, will it improve the read without losing anything vital from the story? If so, do it. 
  Is there a clear marketing opportunity for my story, and, if so, does the story work in the best way it can to suit that opportunity? 
 Have I laid out my story in such a way that an editor can choose to easily read just the story text, or can read story text along with any necessary picture notes?
  Do I love my story? If not, it’s unlikely others will!


Happy snerting!


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