Wednesday, November 18, 2020

From Research to Revision, Ick! Part 9

On Wednesdays this fall, I’m sharing the process of creating my recently-published book Ick! Delightfully Disgusting Animals Dinners, Dwellings, and Defenses step-by-step. (To learn about the whole process in one sitting or to share an age-appropriate version with your students, check out this new resource on my website.)

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been discussing the first stage of revision--how I revise on my own before sending my manuscript to an editor. You can scroll down and read that post. Today I’ll focus on revising based on my editor’s feedback. 

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Ick! is a blended book. It has some characteristics of expository literature and some characteristics of browseable nonfiction.


Like most browseable books, each double-page spread in Ick! functions as a distinct unit made up of various text features. The text features in Ick! include a main text, a main illustration and caption, a Stat Stack, an Extra Ick! factoid, and a sidebar that incorporates a sidebar and caption.

Originally, each spread also had a Math Matters sidebar. My editor thought these seemed a little too “educational,” so I suggested changing the name to Critter Challenge, but she didn’t think that was enough. We did some brainstorming and decided to rename them Putrid Puzzlers. Then I rewrote them to be more like puzzles or riddles that incorporate math. But at the next pass, the executive editor expressed the same concern—too “educational”, so we cut them completely. I was sorry to see them go, but of course, editors know best what will sell to their targeted market. 

Some of the other sections changed just a little, and others changed a lot. Here’s a typical example of comments from the book’s editor, Shelby Lees:

As you can see, she’s asked some great questions. They helped me really think through the process a turkey vulture uses to detect carcasses, so that I could explain it more clearly.  

And the revisions made to address her concerns. It’s as big improvement.

Here's the final spread:
In about six cases, the editor thought my original examples weren’t gross enough. She asked me to replace those spreads with something else. In one instance, we omitted the grasshopper, and replaced it with what is now one of my favorite animals in the book—the bone-eating snot flower worm. Isn’t that name irresistible?


And then, when the photos came in, we made some additional changes so the words and pictures worked well together. It took about 2 years of collaborating with my editor and other National Geographic staff members to get everything just right. In the end, I’m really proud of this book, and I think your students will love it.

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