But I have to start by explaining some of the fundamentals of this journey.
2020 has been a busy year for me! Even as our world has been turned topsy-turvy, I found my own private author/illustrator universe flipped over (or, at the very least, rearranged). Early in the year I decided (after serious deliberation with my wife, Marilyn, and a few trusted friends) to temporarily put aside my children's chapter book adventure series and return to finally finish my many-years-delayed picture book work-in-progress, "The NO-NAP Book". And so, that is what I did.
"The NO-NAP Book" is a picture book that I am writing and illustrating. (I only emphasize that because it is - to my knowledge - not that common in the children's picture book market for the author also to be the illustrator.) "The NO-NAP Book" is about a little child who hates naps. As the story progresses, he gives an increasingly animated and exaggerated explanation for why he doesn't like them and doesn't want to take one.
Shortly after I had decided to return to focusing on "The NO-NAP Book", I began taking illustration classes. I quickly realized that those classes were significantly impacting me in an unexpected way. The art instructors at The Society for Visual Storytellers had been primarily using digital means to teach illustrating. And, before I realizes it, I was hooked! In May of 2020, I decided to purchase a Wacom drawing tablet and I chose Clip Studio Paint as my illustration software. Since then, all my NO-NAP illustrations have been produced digitally.
This was by no means an easy transition. I am not a "techy" person. So the learning curve to switch from traditionally-produced to digital illustrations was STEEP (to say the least!). And I am by no means an accomplished digital illustrator ... yet. But I am improving. Soon I will post here some samples of what I am creating.
So, since May, I have been dedicating every available moment to "The NO-NAP Book". This process has included the laying out of the entire book, including covers, publisher's information, title pages, and text placement. During that development I did many re-writes and edits. I took dozens of classes on children's book illustrating. I watched hours and hours of videos about the rules of successful illustrating (and there is an infinite number of them!). I learned about dark and light values and various color theories. I studied the most important illustration structures. I've gained insight into the importance of proper light and shadow utilization. I have tried to apply to my drawings everything I've learned! Whew!
Poor Marilyn! She has become my necessary critic. I can't blame her when her eyes glaze over when I bring ANOTHER update to her for her sharp-eyed opinion.
I am planning on bringing this book to a publisher as soon as possible. I don't even know what that means!!
When my friend, Christy, recently suggested that I include on this site some of the processes I have been utilizing in my writing journey, I think she was mostly interested in my children's chapter book adventure series. So, here's a little about that.
For at least the past three years I have been studying story structure. I have written extensively about that instruction in earlier posts. It continues! My favorite writing craft authors are K.M. Weiland (helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com), C.S. Lakin (livewritethrive.com), and Kristen Kieffer (well-storied.com). My home office is stacked with three-ring binders full of notes from these three (and others).
Even though my primary focus over the past year has been on "The NO-NAP Book", I NEVER stop thinking about my children's chapter book adventure series. So the Notepad on my phone is littered with thoughts and ideas about those four stories. I often carry with me a tiny pocket-sized notebook (given to me many years ago by a teacher friend named Diane Ferron) in which I scribble things for the stories - whenever the inspiration hits me. I write book-related tidbits on napkins, envelopes, scraps of paper, and in a couple of new and re-purposed spiral notebooks.
Yesterday I spent multiple hours back on the children's chapter book adventure series. I am writing four separate stories as a series even though each story in the series is stand-alone. Each has its own protagonist, antagonist, plot and theme. The setting and the time period of the four stories are unifying features and there are a number of connecting surprises planned. Some characters from one story appear in the other three books in ways that tie the series together.
The working titles for the four books are (in order of there appearance in the series): The World BEYOND The Toy Box, The World BENEATH The Blanket, The World BETWEEN Now and Not Yet, and The World BEHIND The Closed Door. I am finding inspiration for these stories from older books like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Wizard of Oz, newer material like Pixar and Disney movies, and a plethora of other children's media. Being a grandparent who babysits has availed me to all of the new children's movies, books, and TV shows. I hope that my stories will join the pantheon of my grandchildren's favorites!
Stories are made up of many elements. Keeping each element in mind while writing is a challenge. I have decide to write the four books simultaneously. I hope it will help make them more cohesive as a series.
I sit at my writing desk (I have a separate desk for my drawing tablet and tethered computer) surrounded by my cluttered bookshelves full of story-craft binders. Everything is within arm's reach. I love being snuggled into this close proximity to my resources. I write my notes in pencil. (I erase a lot!) I start with concepts, theories, and outlines. I answer plot questions. I rely on story advice from the experts which I turn to constantly.
I use my computer as a research and inspiration tool. I play a lot of different music through Spotify or the Window's Media Player. (Right now I am listening to Switchfoot's "The Best Yet". Sometimes I listen to rain and thunder soundtracks.) I use an app named Scrivener to compile all my research and to write my stories. I am using an outlining system named Fool Proof Outline which is AMAZING! My phone is my thesaurus and dictionary. I spend thousands of hours preparing my mind for minutes of final production. But it is worth every second.
Okay, I'm ready to slip over to my writing desk. I want to thank the patient followers who check in on this site though it has been quite thin with new posts for way too long. I hope that I can change that. Be looking for "The NO-NAP Book" sometime in the next year or so (It depends on when a publisher picks it up!).
In the meantime, stay healthy physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Merry Christmas. I pray that you find deep and abiding comfort in the reason for the season.