Steps to Writing a Children's BookDiary writing steps
Writing a children's book: twenty steps
So if you're planning to get or read the Charlie book, it might be a lot of pleasure to see the background to it. But if you're not planning on getting or even read the Charlie book, it might still be a lot of pleasure to see the background to it. And if you've ever thought about writing an illustration of a children's book, it might be useful for you to see the background to it.
I' m hoping I can recall the background. That is the children's section of the same publisher that my cookery book was originally written, and I actually chose to make the children's book before my cookery book was even made. We had a lot of discussions that led to my decision to create a children's book about Charlie, my smelly, warlike, very lethargical and cute Basset Hound.
I knew I wanted to involve Suzie, my 11-year-old Jack Russel Terrier, who spends most of my life hanging out with my father-in-law and who is the ideal yein to Charlie's yes. Can barely bear to see Suzie and Charlie together. Narrowed down to two unbelievable graphic designers, they sent interpretation by Charlie and Suzie.
Diane's deGroat's painting was wonderful and really caught Charlie's sweetheart. Another one ( "by an unbelievable children's book author") was funnier and funnier. Something I did identify when I was looking at both of them was that I wanted to make sure Charlie didn't come across in the book as too.... uh.... "precious".
Of course, Charlie is valuable in his own way, but I didn't want him to look like a cute, cheerful, jumping, dear little hound, although he actually looks pretty miserable most of the while. The" miserable" qualitiy was quite present in the second, more comic picture. But in the end, I found Diane's attitude to Charlie better suited the book I had imagined: cute and bizarre and imaginative and inane.
As I started working on the script, Diane started working on Charlie and Suzie's characters. As she didn't have the history to outline yet, Diane was working on the perfection of Charlie and Suzie, on the basis of some prestigious photographs I had sent her. There were some first outlines. Suzie and Charlie were the same in their first colour drawing above (in fact Suzie is much smaller than Charlie.) In this drawing, however, Suzie seemed a bit too small.
Suzie' a little puppy, but not so small. And so Diane pinched until it went right. As I never want to think that someone who reads a book of mine has backgrounds about the person (or canines) they read about, I really wanted the book to present Charlie's character to those who may not know anything about him and his lethargy madness, but are still enjoyable and well-informed.
So, I did a thing that Charlie told me, the farm he was living on, his routine... and then, towards the end, I put in a thing that would allow Charlie to rescue the workday. When I was writing the book, I thought of scenarios they would be supporting, then I described these in detail so that the artists could sketch the book.
Whilst the journalist liked the overall picture of the tale, her general feeling was that she was too....well, too cute and valuable. It was a great way for me to learn: because I wrote a children's book, I tried to act and make everything cute..... and in the end the sense of humour that Charlie follows wherever he goes was not there.
One other thing the publisher and I both agreed was that the third party didn't really felt right; the whole thing had to be narrated from Charlie's view. So I went back to the drafting table and reworked the plot. I' changed it to the first one (?) and sprayed more of the wry humour that suits Charlie better.
I also deleted a sequence that both my editors and I found a little too intensive for young children, and finally substituted it with a more real "save the day" script. By the way, the journalist (her name is Kate. And she's pretty..) sent the tale to the artis.
I' ve refined the history here and there, but mostly I was just waiting with breathtaking excitement for Diane's first outlines. He sent us coarse outlines of the story: With these first drawings, the only reason I had the original concept was to make sure that her performance of my description of my work was on the right path.
It was at this point that I really began to get enthusiastic about the book. He and I conferred with Charlie to get his expertise feed-back, and he consented that things were going well. Naturally I was in love with everything, and my proposals were generally insignificant: to turn a double page into a large illustrated book that covers both sides, to alter Charlie's attitude, etc...
I' ll turn up towards the end of the book. Diane's first drawing of me showed me with (very small) denim, a hidden chemise and a waistcoat. On the basis of all the feedbacks, the painter sent narrower outlines. as well as a colour distribution. It was the first colour we had seen in connection with the book (except for the first drawing Diane had sent Charlie), and as soon as I saw it, I melt.
When I had finished reviewing the story/sketches, I realised that I needed a few more pages to tell a more comprehensive narrative. When I was repeatedly rereading the book at that point, I always felt the same "holes" in the same places. The problem is, with a full-color book like this, it' s difficult to add pages because it adds to the outlay.
Of course I didn't want my enquiry for more pages to raise the final cost of the book, so I told the publisher very clearly why I thought the added pages would help the book. Much to my joy, the reply was yes (actually it was something like "Yes, but then we can't even put a bit more inks" ) and I started to fill in the gaps and supply her with the new artwork note.
They used the latest outlines to layout the whole book and insert empty spaces where my new, additional pages would be. So Diane began to get very specific information about the illustration. In this early expansion, for example, in the lower lefthand sequence, Charlie Marlboro Man "helps" to repair a rail.
A part of my original explanation was that Suzie was keeping Marlboro Man's fencing tongs in her mouth, and Diane wanted to know exactly what the fencing tongs were like. I am an absolute specialist in such things, of course (not), so I found a good picture of the same forceps I use every single working finger on the fixation girdle.... and sent them to Diane.
The narrower drawing of this sequence shows the same forceps in Suzie's snout. And, lastly, here is the completed book illustrations. Diane and the editors would regularly submit question bundles as part of this refining procedure, such as: - Is Charlie crying with her mouths open or her limbs swollen?
For Diane it was also important that we stay in the same season - not only in the season, but also in summers. Consequently, an early sequence I had been writing about towing hey was edited because we would not tow until July. Diane began working on the full-color variants of the spread after a few back and forth adjustments and optimizations and refinements.
Meanwhile she has also sent a draft of the album. We hadn' t yet chosen the book's name! Best candidates were Charlie the ranch dog, Charlie the country dog and (here in the sketch)....Charlie in Charge. He sent a more detailed outline of the album.
I had proposed to add more Freckles to Charlie, and for the definitive release, to add more garbage to the veranda (muddy boot, a rope) to make it more lifelike. And Diane de Croatia is a lovely graphic artist. And then came some small pictures by Charlie for the inside cover of the coat (far right): That's how they were used:
After the full-colour artwork was finished, I worked on putting the text for the narrative in and around the work. In many places in the book the text is placed in order to emphasize what is going on in the work. Like in a setting where Charlie settles down, he says something like that:
During the first round of colour pictures, the entire text above appears together as one paragraph: Here is Diane to illustrate Charlie at dinner. This book has been printed! "Can you please indulge my passion for colour and ask the press to increase colour density by about 5%? "I wanted to make sure the paint really came from the side.
And then the book came in. Conclusion: I liked the idea of writing a children's book. I' m not sure if it was the fact that I really like the theme (Charlie) so much or the pleasure of thinking about a sequence in my mind and seeing such a gifted performer put my thoughts on board or tell a tale in Charlie's ear.... or the whole collaboration that this book was part of.
When you have the feeling that you have a children's book in your stomach, I really want you to look behind the curtains. When you don't have a children's book in your stomach - if you have apple boys or cocoa puffs in it instead - I still wish you could have taken that little look at the game.