3 revision tips from an L.A. Times editor

Joanna Penn edits

Book edits. Photo by Joanna Penn

“It’s okay to borrow from literature,” an L.A. Times editor told me and a room full of journalists at a recent workshop on word craft. Well, the reverse is also true. I attended that workshop for my job as a reporter but in the subsequent days have found myself utilizing Steve Padilla’s tips as I revise picture book manuscripts. Details like length and vocabulary level may differ in my writing spheres, but the principles of good writing cut across formats. So I thought I’d share some of Steve’s best tips here that you can make use of in your children’s writing, or any other kind of writing.

1. Focus on verbs Print your story out and circle all the verbs. Look at each one and decide if it’s a) active, and b) specific/vivid. My high school yearbook adviser drilled active vs. passive into me as a teenager, so I rarely use forms of “to be,” but I’ve noticed in revisions that many of my verbs are still boring/generic.

An example:The man was eaten by a lion. (passive)

A lion ate the man. (active)

A lion devoured the man in two gulps. (active, vivid, specific)

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