If I’m being honest, I wasn’t really sure how to write this post. Writing a book is such a unique experience for every writer and know to processes or books are going to be the same. That’s the whole point after all.
But in thinking about that, I recall how long I considered myself to be just a poser because I didn’t write books the same way I was always hearing or reading about. I’d read these articles and posts about authors complex outlining processes, storyboarding, and drafting and my heart would just sink. I’d slip into a terrible habit of comparing myself to these authors and beat myself up for not doing things their way. I’d sit with tabs open to write my book and wonder what I was doing wrong. It was a vicious cycle.
So what was I doing wrong? I was trying too hard to be all the other authors who’d gone before me and wasn’t paying any attention to the author I am.
The truth of the matter is that I don’t write like all those articles and posts. I know I’m not the first writer to not follow strict organizational patterns and I won’t be the last. I also know that I’m not the only writer out there who’s struggled with comparing myself to other writer’s processes. So this post is for the creative who doesn’t follow the usual process and would like to know they’re not the only one. Trust me you’re not. The trick to it all is to find the way that works for you. So how do I write a draft of a children’s book my way?
Write where I had the energy for the story.
When I wrote my book The Fantastic Adventures of Captain Acorn, I had a storyline that was largely episodic in its storyline. Each chapter was its own adventure within the larger story. What this allowed me to do was shift around the order in which I wrote the book. I could mentally treat each chapter as its own short story and isolate the process on a smaller scale. It was a lot easier to manage when I viewed my writing time in smaller sets. One day I could tell myself “All right, today I’m going to focus on Acorn fighting the sea serpent.” and another day I could shift my focus to writing the chapter when Acorn dives for buried treasure. It did wonders for my creative process to not have to write the story in a set order and to just go where I felt like going that day. I knew where the story was going. I didn’t need to put any pressure on myself to write it in a linear or structured fashion.
I still use this method in other books I’m working on. I have another work in progress that’s nowhere near as episodic as Captain Acorn was that this approach still works on. It’s just a matter of understanding that some days other certain parts of the story are going to come easier than others.
It’s a first draft and a seventeenth draft all in one.
When I wrote my book, I had to know my own distractibility and find ways to get around it that actually worked for me. The best approach I had was to give myself the flexibility to work on the book at its various stages. A lot of writers like to write the first draft of their book, no matter how rough it is, before moving on to any editing or refining. With Captain Acorn, I was much more free flowing in my drafts. Some parts of the book would be in a the roughest of first draft stages while other sections were in a near-final draft phase.
Where I ended up writing was all dependent on where I was feeling the strongest in my creativity at that moment. I’m a big believer that you can’t wait for inspiration to get your writing done. That’s a good way to end up waiting forever. You have to show up and write your book whether or not you’re feeling inspired. I do, however, think that you have to pay close attention to your creative spark and listen to where it’s telling you to go.
The trick of this is that it’s very similar to my approach to beating writer’s block. It allows me to go with the flow and chase down the creativity all while producing work whether or not the inspiration comes. In a lot of ways, writing is like archaeology. You know something big and important is buried and you’re the one, armed with your tools, to uncover it bit by bit. You have to be willing to hunt around for it. If you’re not making progress in one spot, move to another and start digging. Just do the work no matter what.
At the end of the day, every writer under the sun is different. There is so much that we can learn from each other creatively, but we absolutely have to understand that our differences might just be what makes us. If you don’t do things your way, you’re just doing what a thousand other people have done before you. By all means, learn as much as you possibly can from as many authors as you can, but do it to make your own style. You aren’t going to get anywhere by forcing yourself to be something you’re not.
The biggest mistake you can make as a writer is crossing the line between looking to other writers for inspiration and comparing yourself to them.
There are a lot of methods out there for producing a draft of your book, but the best one is always going to be the one that works for you. Be hungry, be eager, be a good student of the authors who have come before you, but for the love of all things be you. That’s the best kind of writer to be.
Let’s find some joy,