Authors and editors of children’s and young adult books have an important job: not only do they need to resonate with adult readers, but they also need to connect with young readers. As editors, we need to help authors find the “turn the page” moments within their manuscripts—the moments that completely grab the reader and make it impossible for them to put the book down. These moments make a book compulsively readable. Regardless of the genre, we need to tease out these moments in every book that we edit.
Nancy Siscoe’s essay, “Once Upon a Time Lasts Forever” in What Editors Do focuses on the idea that children’s books are the ones that we remember in detail despite the number of years that have passed. While working with an author on a developmental edit, Siscoe talks about these “turn the page” moments and how important they are in determining the pace of a children’s picture book. Instead of pauses in the images of a children’s book, young adult and adult titles have chapter endings. According to Siscoe, this “turn the page” moment is “a little moment of suspense.” It’s this moment that has the reader gasping at the cliff-hanger, anxious to continue on.
As a developmental editor, this “turn the page” idea or momentary cliff-hanger can be a crucial part of your developmental edit. How does the chapter end? Does it make you want to continue reading, or are you okay taking an extended break? These are questions you can ask of your author when working together on a developmental edit. What are your crucial moments? Does the author hit them all? Outlining these moments in your head as you’re working on a developmental edit can assist you in how you’ll approach your editorial letter to the author. Are you able to show the value in these “turn the page” moments?
Siscoe’s essay made me realize just how important that inner child is to our reading and our editing. Though you may not be reading children’s novels, it can provide a lens through which we edit. Focusing on the feelings you had as a young reader can help you advise your author on how to hit those feelings in their future readers. “Hope is essential” as Siscoe writes in her essay. If we think about that as the central idea to bring out as we’re editing, we’ll be able to find the essential moments in the manuscript and advise our authors in a way that will let the story flow.