Here’s the truth of it: The manuscript you first write may not be the exact same manuscript that convinces an agent to represent you. The “I-got-an-agent” manuscript may not be precisely the same manuscript that the two of you sell to a publisher. The “I-got-a-book-deal” manuscript will likely not be the manuscript that eventually ends up as a book on a proper shelf in a proper bookstore.
These manuscripts will be similar. Oh, yes. They will be similar. Many of the words will be the same. The narrative structure might even be the same. Of course, the living, beating heart of the story that gave it a chance in the first place will be the same. But as the manuscript evolves, what initially seemed like one beautiful and stalwart dog…
becomes more like a litter of puppies.
I hereby give you permission to love them all. You may love the brand-new one, all sweetly damp with its eyes sealed shut. You may love the one that snores while it sleeps with its tummy full of milk. It might not be the liveliest, but it sure is cute! You may love the one that’s starting to show some personality, that scampers around and nips just a little too hard with its razor-sharp puppy teeth. You may and you should love them all.
But unless you’re going to be some kind of puppy hoarder—which doesn’t serve you or your plentiful puppies—
You get to keep only one. That’s right. One.
You’re not going to make this choice by yourself. Others will be involved. The potential puppy’s vet. The potential puppy’s trainer. They will look at all the puppies in the litter, tumbling about and tearing the place up, and they will help you decide on one.
Wait. We’re not talking about a *real* puppy. We’re talking about YOUR BOOK. The others involved will be your trusty agent and editor.
But back to puppies.
Bit by bit, the right puppy will emerge. It will distinguish itself from its littermates. It will mature, develop manners, learn not to jump on guests. Its essential sense of self will be cultivated, its strengths enhanced. It will be groomed until it shines like a shiny, shiny show dog.
(Dog geek alert: I’m pretty sure this is an English Toy Spaniel. The muzzle looks too pushed-in for a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Feel free to weigh in.)
It will be ready to strut its stuff in front of the whole world and make you proud.
And your puppy-love will deepen into true love.
Remember, none of this happens by accident. Without long walks, lots of attention, some sleepless nights, and consistent discipline, your book-puppy will never become all it’s meant to be.
And it’s meant to be nothing less than a champion.
I look back fondly at my many versions of BABYMOON. They still have all their puppyish charm for me. The earliest is spare yet lyrical. Later ones are more developed, with complete sentences and a more varied rhythm. The final, more nuanced version is quite different from its siblings, and yet it bears a strong resemblance to all of them. I guess you could say it’s the pick of the litter.
Enjoy the day.
I write for young people and live to make kids laugh. My debut picture book, BABYMOON, is coming from Candlewick Press. Come hang out with me on Twitter @hayleybwrites, Facebook, or in the meadow: http://hayleybarrettwrites.wordpress.com