Bruce Hale is the Edgar Award-nominated author-illustrator of nearly 30 funny books for young readers, including the popular Chet Gecko Mysteries, the Underwhere series, and the picture book Snoring Beauty, one of Oprah’s Recommended Reads for Kids. You can find Bruce online at www.brucehale.com or sign up for his fun and insightful e-newsletter of writing tips at www.brucehalewritingtips.com.
*After Bruce’s interview are instructions for entering today’s Free Partial Edit Giveaway.
How many drafts does it typically take before you feel confident about character and story choices you made for a new story concept?
For me, coming up with the first book in a new series is typically a revision-intensive process. I’ve sometimes done as many as five or six drafts before the voice and characters really start to gel. In my newest series, SCHOOL FOR S.P.I.E.S., for example, I did five drafts before I even felt comfortable showing it to author friends and agent for feedback.
When you’re writing a series, you know your characters well. How many drafts are needed once you get a series established? What kinds of things are you refining at that level?
Once the series is established, things get much easier. I know the characters and I know the voice, so these books take a lot less revision — typically only three or four drafts before I deliver the manuscript (depending on the complexity of the book). At this stage of a series, my revisions focus on different matters: making sure the characters and voice are consistent from book to book; ensuring plenty of variety in the jokes, plot twists, and so forth; and finding ways to keep things familiar but fresh.
How early does your editor come into each new book?
This varies pretty widely, depending on the book, series, and editor. With CHET GECKO, I would sometimes toss around plot ideas with my editor before I even started the book. With most other series, however, my editor doesn’t come into the process until I have a draft I’m pretty satisfied with — usually #3 or 4.
The Underwhere series is your second series. Did the first manuscript fall into place quickly, or did it take a few rounds to settle into the new characters and voices?
The UNDERWHERE series was tricky to write, the first book requiring about a year of revision. My first challenge was keeping the series’ voice distinct from my CHET GECKO books. Then I had to create characters that were different enough from the ones I’d been writing in my previous series. And finally, I had to learn how to write the comic-book chapters of the story, which required an approach much closer to screenwriting than novel writing. LOTS of revision was involved in that first book, PRINCE OF UNDERWHERE.
Do you use critique partners?
Although I was part of a critique group years ago, I haven’t been for quite some time. However, I do have writer friends who are kind enough to read and comment on story drafts on an ad-hoc basis, and I do the same for them.
Do you share your manuscripts with kids to test them out?
My first SCHOOL FOR S.P.I.E.S. book was the first time I’d done that. I gave it to a friend’s daughter who was just slightly older than my target readers, and she gave me some great feedback.
What’s the most drastic thing you’ve done to a story while revising?
I’ve changed the voice from omniscient to first-person, and finally settled on third-person POV. That was pretty drastic, and required TONS of extra revision. But it was worth it, for finding the POV that best suited that story.
How do you know you’ve got the final draft?
When I can’t find anything else to tinker with, and I have that general feeling that if I mess with it much more, the entire souffle will collapse in a soggy heap — that’s when I know it’s the final draft.
The Editor is giving away another FREE PARTIAL EDIT of your manuscript. Note that the winner of today’s giveaway IS eligible for Saturday’s grand prize Full Manuscript Edit Giveaway. Here are the rules, with a bonus entry available to DearEditor.com subscribers:
- Your manuscript can be of ANY GENRE or CATEGORY (for adults or children, fiction or non-fiction), including picture books.
- The partial edit will cover the FIRST CHAPTER of your manuscript. In the case of a picture book entry, the edit will cover the entire manuscript—but the manuscript cannot exceed 7 double-spaced, 12-pt font pages.
- Deadline: MIDNIGHT tonight, March 27, 2013, PST.
- Winner will be randomly selected using Randomizer.org and announced on March 28, 2013, in the DearEditor.com comments section and on the DearEditor.com Facebook page, and the winner will be notified directly via email.
One entry – SEND EMAIL to DearEditor.com using the “Write to The Editor” button at the top of the blog or by clicking here. Type “Free Partial Edit Giveaway” in the subject line. In the body of the email, include the TITLE of your manuscript and YOUR FULL NAME. DO NOT send your manuscript or any portion of it. (If you have any difficulty with the contact button, send an email entry directly to firstname.lastname@example.org.) *If you do not want your title announced, please use an alternate working title.*
Bonus entry – SUBSCRIBE. DearEditor.com subscribers get a bonus entry by sending a second email with “Subscriber’s Bonus Giveaway Entry” in the subject line and your title and full name in the body. (Note: the Editor will verify!) Not a subscriber yet? Then subscribe now by clicking on the “Subscribe” button at the top of DearEditor.com and then email your second entry.
Anyone who doesn’t follow these rules will be disqualified, at the Editor’s discretion.
Disclaimer: The Editor does not share or in any other way use your contact information; it’s collected solely for winner contact purposes at the end of the giveaway.
I’m pleased to announce the winner of yesterday’s Free Partial Edit Giveaway: Laurie Weeks, with her manuscript If This World Were Mine. Looking forward to working with you, Laurie!
I LOVED this post! Bruce is fantastic! His books rock! Thanks so much for posting!
Thanks for sharing your process, Bruce. : )
Big congrats to Laurie! 🙂 Thanks to Bruce for sharing his secrets to creating and revising all his series. I love his titles and the covers! Making children laugh is a great gift. Wishing Bruce much success!
Great post from Bruce. Thanks!
Congrats to Laurie!
My kids and I adored Bruce’s Chet Gecko series…they are hilarious!! Thank you for sharing his insights (and Laura’s from yesterday too), Deborah!.
Love the soggy souffle image! This is my favorite interview so far. Thank you!
And Bruce will be at our Oregon SCBWI Spring conference! That’s worth the price of admission right there. I look forward to learning a lot about writing humor (which I take a stab at) from him.
Thanks for the post! I am nearing the stage of a collapsing souffle. I’d better let my ms sit for a while. Thank you, Bruce and The Editor.
Congrats, Laurie on the win!
A pinch of drastic and the recipe was just right!