When I sat down to begin this post, I had every intention of writing about making book dummies. (Spoiler, I’m not going to write about dummy making.) However, as I began looking back through old dummies and the material that led to my debut author/illustrated picture book (The Little Green Girl, Dial 2019), I couldn’t help marveling at the dates on my early drafts. I ended up on a wild hunt through boxes of dummies and sketchbooks, an ancient laptop, and finally our current computer.
I found the first drawing of my main character in a sketchbook from 2014. At the time, I knew right away that this little character had a story to tell, and I remember quickly filling the page around her with additional character sketches as well as scratchy story notes, and a tiny drawing of a garden gnome. (Poor gnome didn’t make it into even the first dummy.)
The gnome isn’t the only thing that I cut from those early drafts. Very little remains from the first draft of the story other than the Little Green Girl and her gardener, Mr. Aster. The plot, the emotional narrative of both characters, the resolution—all of it is different in the book that will be published next year.
This book is not a story that wrote itself. I found five InDesign drafts on my old laptop and eight additional drafts on the new computer. The Little Green Girl took three years and thirteen drafts to sell, and it’ll be almost exactly five years from that very first sketch to the book’s publishing date. I’m telling you all of this not to discourage anyone, but rather to say that if you’ve ever had an idea for a character or a story, stick with it. You never know; it just may end up on a bookshelf one day.
And to be practical, here are a few pointers on revisions from someone who is terrible at killing her darlings:
We are a group of writers and illustrators who have debut books (actual debuts , debuts as author-illustrators, or debuts with medium/large publishers) forthcoming in 2019. Thank you for joining us on our exciting journey!