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Part 2: I WANT TO READ ALL THE BOOKS Process (Writing The Book)

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Part 1 (Idea) – Part 2 (Writing) – Part 3 (Illustration)Cover Process

Coming up with an idea is easy, I’ve found. I keep several Book Idea Notebooks, and these are filled with many ideas. Every one of these new ideas is exciting when I first come up with it. The challenge, I find, is finding an idea that I’ll still be excited about longterm, when I’m wading through the weeds of revision, and when I’ve handed in the final writing and final art….but then need to start promoting it!

What I do when I come up with a book idea:

I let it sit for a while, at least a couple of weeks….sometimes months or even years. If I come back to it and I’m STILL excited about it, that’s a good sign!

You can read more about why I advise letting your ideas sit for a while in this Storystorm article.

I write many, many drafts of the story before I send it to my editor.

I usually start by just writing a rough draft of the story text without any pagination, to get a sense of the story arc and flow. I usually start with the beginning and the end, then start filling in the middle.

Next, I break up the text into page spreads. I do this for every picture book project. By this, I mean dividing up the text into where I see the page turns going. This helps me get a sense of whether my story pacing is working, if there is too much text that needs to go on a page spread (in which case I need to revise the text or re-jig that page breaks), etc.

Here’s the binder where I kept most of my early notes throughout the project:

I use transparent sheet protectors, the kind you can use for multiple sheets of paper, to help me keep track of iterations of my notes and early sketches.

I began working on the story text in 2021 and sent my editor a polished draft in October. Even while I was revising the text, however, I had already begun to do very rough thumbnail sketches – I use stick figures and gesture sketches to keep me from getting too settled into the art.

In November, we had a Zoom meeting where Justin gave me his initial feedback, letting me know what he thought was and wasn’t working. I love that my editor never TELLS me what to do; it’s always a collaborative discussion.

I did 18 drafts of my picture book manuscript before we both agreed it was in good enough shape for me to start working on the sketches.

Once the text is firmed up, I started experimenting more with the possible layout for each spread. I’ve learned NOT to settle with the first possibility that comes to mind, but push myself to try out different camera angles, different ways to showing the visual story. I’ve created a number of templates for my own use, but have made them publicly available for others to use.

Here’s a sample of my brainstorming sketches for the first spread:

Continued in Part 3: Creating The Art For I WANT TO READ ALL THE BOOKS…


Debbie is currently available for virtual visits. Her presentations and workshops can be adjusted to suit all age levels, from kindergarten to college students to educators and other professionals.