A story about a story – part 1

I’ve done pictures for other people’s books, but I’ve never managed to get my own picture books off the ground.  I’ve got lots of ideas, and have got several of the more complete ones to my lovely agency, and each time my lovely agent has said something like, ‘I think the text needs more work’.  Which is the nicest way possible for them to say ‘lol no’.

I’d put a lot of work into a story about a crocodile that had taken a lot of plotting and planning and thought, and while I was wrangling it into shape, a new idea popped up. I can’t remember how it appeared in my brain – it seemed to emerge from nowhere but very quickly I could see how the story would travel from beginning to end, and what the main character looked like, and her family, and where she lived (usually, I have the idea, and then bits of story sort of gradually coalesce around it until there’s enough for a whole book.  It can be surprising how much thought the assembling of a few hundred words can entail).

I wrote, doodled and drew and sent both stories to my agent. Regarding the crocodile story, the work of my heart, the product of my artistic soul, the email said something to the effect of ‘I think the text needs more work’.

New Story also came back with ‘I think the text needs more work,’ but also, ‘it could be good and this is where it needs improving’.  Two-ish rewrites, a few more tweaks and lovely agent said ‘THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO!*  Storyboards and finished artwork for the end of January, please’.  It’s needed by then so that it can go to the Bologna Book Fair, which is international, and one of the big ones for children’s books. Oooooh…

That might sound like a long time to the deadline.  It isn’t.  That’s the cover and twelve spreads to work out and produce as a ‘good’ rough.  There will be finished artwork to produce, although this won’t be the whole book but the cover and two or three double-page spreads worth.  This is to show a publisher how the style will work in the book, and give an idea as to the finished item.  You don’t do final illustrations for whole book: it will get changed, and then months of work might go for nothing.

One thing I do like, however, is a nice solid deadline.  When I don’t have one, its like my brain can’t quite get into gear.  You can sense the engine running, but the clutch isn’t quite engaging somehow.  Give me a deadline and suddenly everything clunks into place and everything starts whirring and clanking off down the road.

So, we’re now working on tuning up the main character, and now I’m learning about all the little things that have to be taken into account to make her just right… Onwards and upwards!


*She didn’t say this, but it is my blog and that’s what I’ve decided should have happened.

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