Since right after the 2013 SCBWI Summer Conference, I’ve been deeply entrenched in creating a new picture book. I’ve taken two versions all the way to fully-realized dummies - because I couldn’t tell if they’d work or not until I saw them on the page. This is not a very efficient way to work, considering that, at least for this book, it took me a month of solid work to complete each of the dummies.
So is there a way to streamline my process? Is it even worth trying to do, since I’m still learning about my own process? Shouldn’t I be focusing more on the final product itself, and doing whatever it takes to get the best possible book out there? I don’t have an answer. I suppose if there was an unceasing demand for my books, then yes, I’d have to work on streamlining my process. But right now, so much of my work feels like new, untested experimental methods, and it’s only at the very last minute that things start to feel rote – and when I say very last minute, I truly mean when I’m taping the printed out dummy together, and only concerned with trying to line the pages up right against each other, and I’m no longer thinking about the art.
Even cleaning up the art in Photoshop or laying in the text feels experimental, like I’m still figuring it out and scared I’ll mess it up. I guess that’s what keeps it exciting for me.
At any rate, two months in, and I have a third version of the story (to say nothing of the countless drafts and attempts that didn’t make it past the thumbnailing stage). I’m really hoping this is the one. The goal was to have the dummy done in time to submit to agents before the holiday slowdown, but now that looks unlikely, since I have to redraw everything, do final art pieces, and refine a query letter. It’s possible, but because I was foolhardy and signed up to do NaNoWriMo for a different manuscript, and I have a revise and resubmit request from an editor for another picture book. Honestly, I’ve got my hands full. I guess that’s better than the alternative, which is not having any ideas at all. But every time a new story idea pops into my head now, I meet it with a bit of trepidation because I know how overextended I already am.
If this sounds like complaining, forgive me. And please believe me: I know how lucky I am that this is what I get to do with my life, even if I don’t yet have an established career. Or maybe that makes me even luckier, since I’m STILL able to practice at it, and not be defined by inferior work in the marketplace. I’ve heard that there’s a better opportunity for a debut author or illustrator than there is for one who is midlist (i.e. Didn’t earn out on their advance).