Most of my process has been about the art on this web. Some know that I've published a few pieces on writing in the SCBWI's Bulletin (as well as a few other places from Children's Writers and Illustrator's Market:2004 and instructional articles on Yellapalooza's website and others) not only on illustration but also on writing. I thought I'd share a few thoughts about the W-i-p and a little about my thought process on writing.
The first thing is to actually write it all down, even if it stinks.Realize some of this writing is actually REwriting, after you've got something down on the page, and I'll write a bit more in depth about that on Monday.
I've said I dream a lot, and it's a truth. There have been times the line or the image will hit me (sometimes enough to wake me up, others it was strong enough to haunt me in my awake times.
There were so many trepidations for me writing my friend Ann's story. First I'm not an African American, though I was a good friend to her and goodness knows she inspired me. Second, as much as I love Old Orchard Beach, I didn't live in the time period, and the very layout and character of the beach could and did change, often from year to year with fire, the economy, changing times, weather and construction. Because ultimately though she and her family accomplished a great deal, some of her story is groups of people's history, not just her own. I wasn't qualified, I wasn't empathetic enough, I didn't know enough, I wasn't talented enough...
The very first thing anyone has to do is give yourself permission to tell the tale.
When Ann passed, I realized I'd been given this huge gift not only of her friendship, but also the story, her permission and encouragement.
And if I didn't tell it, who would?
Once over that hurdle, amazingly the first line POPPED into my head:
"Sun's UP! Out of bed!"
Sounds easy but it wasn't, it took a long time to get to that point, and it was a matter of remembering her and her joie de vivre, and wondering what she would have been like as a child and there it was. Sometimes finding the right words can be real work, it's not a matter of difficulty it's a matter of what fits, what tells the story.
Once you have them, funny thing, it often feels inevitable. Too often novice writers don't have enough faith in themselves. A lot of time is spent on telling the mundane tale, and hardly anytime is spent on the choice of words.
Anyone can (and probably has) written that bunny story. Beatrix Potter wrote it because she LIVED with them. Unless you live with them (the bunnies, not Beatrix Potter, because THAT would be a story), why do it? The whole point is to share what you alone can share. And once you find it, being patient enough to find the inevitable words. You find those and I guarantee you've hooked your reader--- I believe there's something visceral when you find them, better than any incantation, because it's the flower of your book. Monday I will blog again, and go into more depth than this about how I actually write my syncopated rhyme. Hope you'll tune in then...