Thursday, March 12, 2009


I thought it might be interesting to see some of the steps I took to complete Skinny Brown Dog. So once a week for the next few weeks, I'll share some of those steps with you. If you have questions along the way, please ask them in the comments. Everyone will benefit from what you want to know.

If you have read any of my past posts, you may already know that writing this picture book broke a bad case of writer's block. Back then I was under contract to write a novel. My mother-in-law had died and I was experiencing grief and regrets. Facing my novel seemed a daunting task. Each day I avoided it. After weeks of not writing, I told myself that I could write about anything that day. When you haven't been writing for a while, you sometimes have to reconnect by taking several baby steps.

First step: Get in the car and drive.

Second step: Go to a coffee shop and order an extra dry cappuccino.

Third step: Find a place to sit.

Fourth step: Web for ten minutes.

For a moment, I stared at the blank page. Then an image of a dog showing up at a bakery entered into my thoughts. My web grew as ideas popped in my head. Cookies, muffins, broken cookies, raspberry muffins. Something lifted inside me. And I felt like a writer again. I quickly wrote the first draft on my yellow pad. Excited about my breakthrough, I rushed home and typed up the manuscript.

Those pages are below. In a way this is like a first and second draft combined. Since I write my first drafts by hand I try to type it into the computer the way I first wrote it. In other words, I try not to tinker with it as I go along.

After I finished typing this story into the computer, I put it away for a couple of days. Then I reread it and thought about the picture possibilities. Some writers make a dummy of their stories where they actually roughly sketch pictures and write the words beneath. For me, circling works just as well. So the circles in this manuscript represent where I thought picture breaks could be. Please note that doesn't mean the artist and editor will see it that way. But it's a good tool to aid the writer in creating a story that lends itself to pictures. Because remember, the pictures are as important as the text in a picture book.

As you can see, I also added in some text and changed the title. I loved the title That's Not My Dog, but someone else had used it. That's how the title eventually became Skinny Brown Dog. By the way, you'll need to double click to read the manuscript.

Next week, I'll share to copy of the manuscript that I sent in with my editor's notes on the copy.

(Important note: I'm posting these pages for your knowledge. Please don't copy these without my permission. Thank you.)


  1. Great post. I'm always interested to see how successful writers go about the creation process.

  2. Thanks, Travis. I'm fascinated by process, too--how other creative people start with nothing and come up with something. It took some time to post all of this and retrace steps, but I was hoping would appreciate. Thanks for letting me know you do.