Picture Book Manuscript – An Illustrator’s White-Knuckled Journey into Writing!

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Late last year I was hit with a white hot bolt of inspiration! Well, actually a thought more along the lines of: “Hey, this would make a really fun picture book!”, after Patricia Storms commented on this photo of my daughter on Facebook:

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Above: Zoe, 2012 – Little Miss Crazy Hair

As an Illustrator, I Start by Writing Visually

I immediately (and by “immediately”, I mean as soon as I had a break between deadlines) started brainstorming by sketching and developing character ideas. After a few weeks of brainstorming, I let my sketches and notes sit for a few days.

I then came back to my sketches and notes with a fresh eye. I looked at all of the ideas I had generated, and came up with a simple story outline. Next, I started sketching some really rough storyboards — trying to capture specific scenes and moments that I wanted to make a part of the story I was going to write. I usually begin my writing process this way — by collecting the various scenes visually until I have a whole series of small vignettes that work well, and may fit into a story.

At this time I also write down any script or dialogue ideas that pop into my head as I draw. I find that I can “write” scenes much more effectively if I visualize the action or expressions of the characters first, and let the words percolate in my head as I draw. This might be an unusual way to write, but I find this works much easier for me than trying to type my way into a story with words. I’m just not wired that way.

On to the Actual “Writing”

After I had some rough visual scenes and situations sketched out,  I then switched gears and actually sat down to write the script. During the writing I refered back to my sketches and incorporated some of the scenes I had sketched out. Some scenes were cut, and new ones were added. I worked this way until I had a rough first draft. Next, I went back and did a full storyboard working from the script I had written, tweaking, fixing, and adjusting things as I went along.

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I draw my storyboards quite small. I find it helps me to focus on the overall page composition and the balance of lights and darks, without worrying too much about the details. I’m a sucker for details, so I have to be be mindful to keep the sketches small or I would get lost for hours adding detail that is a waste of time at this stage.

Sample Illustrations

Once I had the storyboard complete, I chose three pages that I thought would make good samples, and worked them up into final illustrations:

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Click on the image above for a larger version

What’s this? A Promotional Postcard!

Around the same time as I was working on the final sample illustrations, I needed to make a new promotional postcard. Perfect! I’ll just use a couple of the sample illustrations. Who knows, maybe an Editor, Agent or Art Director will see the postcard and be intrigued enough to ask “So, do you have a story to go with this crazy-haired character?”

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Above: Postcard front (notice the cool rounded corners!)

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Above: Postcard back. Actual size is 5″ x 7″

Manuscript Critiques and Fine Tuning

Right now I’m in the middle of tweaking and fine tuning the manuscript. I’ve gone through a few rounds of having it critiqued, and after a lot of helpful feedback I think I’m getting close to finishing it!

Next:
Wrapping my head around query letters, getting my submission package ready, choosing publishers to submit to, and some unique promotional ideas I’m thinking of trying.

4 Comments

Got something to say? Feel free, I want to hear from you! Leave a Comment

  1. jen McNamara says:

    This is amazing. You’ve taken us on a journey and it was fascinating. Your sample illustrations are perfect, adorable, lively…i could go on and on. Best of luck!

  2. Chris Jones says: (Author)

    Thanks Jen, I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  3. Lauri Wendt says:

    I would REALLY love to purchase this book, has it been published and is it available yet by chance??
    Thanks!!

  4. Chris Jones says: (Author)

    Hi Lauri, Thanks! Unfortunately it’s not been published. I have a book dummy currently making the rounds, but no one has taken interest yet.

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