Beginning a book

For me, the early stages I go through of writing a story differ with each book. The only thing that's constant is I like to write a lot when I'm working out a book. I will fill a notebook with just descriptions, ideas, thoughts, and redrafts. I've always  written out a 'plan' for my illustrations. Mainly so I can write down all the variants of what is in the picture, where it's set, what I want the mood to be... Once it's set in my mind I then draw a rough. Then I keep working it until the publisher are happy too, and then I complete the final artwork. No matter how much you plan though, it always turns into a different beast. That's why I think after you have created something you feel as though it wasn't you that did it. I'll often stand at an event in front a flipchart to draw one of my characters, and feel as though I've never drawn them before... It's a strange feeling. 

I've chosen these images above to show you, as they each remind me of a stage of the book. So the storyboard for Otto took a long time, the story has a classical structure and I found that difficult to get right. The beginning was always strong, but we had to extend the final pages and that was tricky, as endings are so crucial. The little sketches are early ones I did of Otto (after studying reference)  to get to know the character, I'm at this stage with my new book, and it's quite fun. Making picture books is about making many,many tiny decisions, and this is just one element. Knowing your character is very important, because with only 32 pages to show him off, the ilustrations have to amplify his character, and make the reader care about him. Picture books are often compared to theatre, and this is accurate. Props, cast, costume, set design, clear narrative, audience, even lighting, are all elements that you have to have thought about before you begin.  

The last two drawings are very early, the window scene was one I loved at the start and it made it into the final book. There is a rainbow of emotions in Otto's story, and it was important we saw him looking lost in this way, at this point. The colour drawing was the first ink drawing of Otto I did, my lovely editor Helen really liked this drawing, and it reminds me of the long, and challenging battle our team later had with the cover!

I have always had very specific ideas about colour, and my editor had to ask me to put some green in Otto, because aside from three trees, it didn't have ANY. So any green you see on coats or buildings, was added in afterwards! I may do a post on dummy books, as that is the next stage after you have found your story idea.  

Otto comes out a month tomorrow, and I'm excited/apprehensive to see what you all think...


Ps. The rough storyboard was only drawn for me, and it doesn't show you the final story, just an early idea. Honestly my roughs aren't that rough!