As a child, I was adamant about writing on paper. I loved the smell of the paper, the feel of the pencil in my hand, the permanent lead mark on my index finger. The writing was visceral.
Today, I write for speed and so a computer is much more useful. And yet all my activities have moved to the computer and phone so that I spend most of my working hours in front of a screen.
If you want that physical feeling back, remember that you can choose to incorporate handwriting into your note-taking, plotting, and sketching.
David H. Baker, the Executive Director of WIMA said, “Though computers and e-mail play an important role in our lives, nothing will ever replace the sincerity and individualism expressed through the handwritten word.”
When you write on paper, you are less likely to take notes verbatim. You spend less time correcting and researching. You spend more time manipulating, summarizing, and synthesizing. Your voice will come out in your writing much more naturally.
“Handwriting is more connected to the movement of the heart.” -Natalie Goldberg
Natalie Goldberg’s style of teaching writing is similar to the way I was taught Tai Chi. “You never ‘get’ it”, “Keep your hand going”, “No matter what comes up, you put it on paper and keep going.” You can watch 10 minutes of Natalie dragging pencil over paper here.
Writing is meditation or an exercise in letting your words flow into paper.
I use One Note by Microsoft to take notes. I use Word to write stories. They don’t take up physical space, I keep files for years, and they are searchable. Regardless, I still use a small notebook every day to keep track of ideas, quotes, and inspiration. My blog posts start in the notebook. This is Why Every Writer Should Write By Hand:
It has been a while since I have written actual poetry, but not long ago I fell into an emotional mess and poetry found its way back into my life. It is not because sadness or depression is becoming of poetry, but because I found myself in a position that I haven’t been in for a long time: absolutely alone with only my thoughts and feelings. I stopped working for a few days, I put my phone away, there was no tv or music, I didn't read, I found space away from everything but my emotions. I spent so much time with them that they found a voice of their own.
“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.” -Robert Frost
Learn to Find Ideas in Many Different Ways
As an illustrator, you are comfortable finding ideas through art. This is a skill that may benefit you. However, to write a winning picture book you must pull from many different sources of inspiration.
Become a Student of Writing
Once upon a time, I was a martial arts instructor. It was common to receive students from other schools or styles, some of which had completed high ranks.
Teaching these students presented a unique challenge because they were comfortable with their old ways and found the greatest success using tried and true techniques.
It is extremely difficult to teach a student new things in this position. That is why Bruce Lee said, “In order to taste my cup of water you must first empty your cup."
“In order to taste my cup of water you must first empty your cup.”
I provide writing and illustrating tips on this blog every Tuesday and Thursday and in my newsletter every Saturday. 100% free.
Write In Scenes
To eat an elephant, they say, you must take one bite at a time. Similarly, to write a picture book, a chapter book, or a novel, you must take one step after the other.
Chapters are an arbitrary demarcation of pauses in a story. Scenes, on the other hand, have a beginning, a middle, and an end. They are complete stories. Mini stories.
It is much simpler to draft, review, and revise manuscripts that have clear scene breaks. They are less overwhelming, particularly if you are writing something long.
Writers Write a Lot: Rewrite and Revise
Don’t be satisfied with your first idea, your first draft, or your first completed manuscript.
Come up with 50 ideas, write from 3 different points of view, review with a critique group 5 times or more depending on length, revise 10 times. Or don’t. What I am trying to say is, become a writer.
Keep it Simple and Brief
Everyone, especially writers, can benefit from this advice. Use short sentences. Use short paragraphs. Use concise language. Cut out the garbage.
“I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit,” Hemingway confided to F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1934. “I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”
Write Non-Fiction, like this:
Forgo Text Altogether, like this:
Writers can't write wordless picture books. So you are in a unique position to flex your storytelling ability through pictures. Some of my favorite picture books are wordless!
Find a Critique Group for your Manuscript
One of the steps of Deliberate Practice is input from outside sources. You need other people to help you improve.
I wish you the best on your writing journey, and I sincerely hope you succeed in finding your place as a writer and illustrator!
Right now, when you sign up for my newsletter, you will get a copy of my “Picture Book Writing Cheat Sheet”.
In the mining industry, the process of extracting and refining minerals generates waste. Wastes include, rock, tailings, spent ore, mine water, and sludges. When waste is resold for another purpose it is called a by-product. For example, waste rock can be resold as landscaping material.
As a creator who wants to make the best of my time, talents, and resources, I want to discover what my by-products are.
Discover Your By-Product
These kinds of questions will help you discover what your by-products are.
My artwork starts as a sketch. Sometimes it is clean, and sometimes it is not. My sketches are the forgotten by-product of my artwork. What I want to find out is whether or not I can repurpose a clean sketch as a coloring page.
I want to offer this coloring page to you free of cost. It is a by-product that I have cleaned up and repurposed for your use.
Take care and good luck finding your by-products!
Download the PDF
If you enjoy this coloring page, you can find others in my shop!
Shawna J. C. Tenney is an author and illustrator with a passion for picture books. Shawna graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Illustration from Brigham Young University and loves telling stories through color, composition, and whimsical characters. She is the author and illustrator of Brunhilda's Backwards Day.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?