Post by Cam M. Sato, Tokyo, Japan
The SCBWI Lunch Meet-Up and Re-Envisioning Revisions: A YA/MG Novel Revision Workshop were scheduled to be held on Saturday, October 12, 2019 at Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo. Unfortunately, Typhoon Hagibis decided to visit Tokyo that day. With sunny skies predicted for the following day, the organizers of the Japan Writers Conference, the host of the conference, and our dedicated organizers at SCBWI Japan were able to reschedule the program.
Despite the difficulties with public transportation and the program change, seventeen wonderful people showed up for the brown bag/bento lunch. It was a joy to meet so many people interested in writing for children and to hear about their projects.
After lunch, we settled in for our Re-Envisioning Revisions workshop. Preparations for the workshop had started well in advance of the conference. Participants had already submitted completed YA or MG manuscripts (original or works in translation) three months earlier to allow allotted critique groups the opportunity to read each other’s manuscripts and give feedback. We were encouraged to share what we loved about the stories and where we thought could use some reimagining.
At the workshop, we broke into our two groups–fantasy and realism. In the fantasy group, we were all happy to meet the people who had given their time and careful consideration for our pieces. After sharing a few pleasantries, we each discussed the feedback we had received and shared our plans for revision. Although we didn’t have time to share our revised excerpts, it was good discussing each piece face to face and feeling the passion each writer had when they talked about their story.
When the group time was up, we came together to hear Mariko Nagai and Holly Thompson, both published authors and co-regional advisors of SCBWI Japan talk about the revision process. It was interesting to learn that Mariko loves writing the first draft but hates revising, while Holly is the opposite. For Holly the first draft is agonizing, and that’s why it’s so helpful to have a deadline like this workshop to get her ideas down on the page. After that she can revel in the revision process.
For Mariko, patience is the key to revision. She writes the first draft by hand then lets it rest for three months. She then does the first round of revisions and lets her manuscript rest again for another three to six months. She types in the new draft then starts working on an elevator pitch of fifteen words or less that gets at the heart of the story. She goes through several drafts before she’s ready to share her story with anyone. Now that’s patience!
Holly, who loves revisions, had a great many revision methods to share: she had everything from doodling what your novel is, to writing out scenes on index cards to ensure each scene has all of the important elements, to making revision charts, to marking the manuscript up with sticky notes, to creating word clouds, and more!
One of the questions raised during the presentations was, “How do you know when you’re done?” The first answer was, “When you’ve reached your deadline.” Which got a few good chuckles. The other answer was, “After you’ve run it by enough people.” The idea being that when the readers are only finding small things to pick on, your story is ready.
A big thank you to everyone for making this workshop happen and for giving each other such wonderful suggestions and support for improvement. With any luck, we’ll be doing this again next year. I hope you join us!
Cam M. Sato is a poet, author, illustrator, and editor. You can learn more about her at camsato.com.