It seems so fantastic and amazing. But you often won't see the struggles. So here the first part blog post about my picture book adventure. Super honest!
Making a picture book: the basics
Let's start with the basics. A picture book seems simple, but when started I soon discovered that it wasn't that easy! How do you write a good story? How many illustrations do you use and at what point in the story? What is it you truly want to tell? How can you paint over and over again the same characters? O, and what about the technical issues like printing, graphic designs and size. And the big question: are you going to find a publisher or would you self publish?
No one told me on forehand that this would totally overwhelm me. That's a good thing, I think that if I knew all this I wouldn't even got started!
Making a picture book: find your drive!
Why? Why do you HAVE to do this? Why am I going through all of this? Questions I asked myself a lot (mostly when I was crying and didn't think I could do it). I found out that these questions are super important. I just had to do this, I had a story to tell. And.. I found a goal, a thing, that I absolutely wanted to do once in my lifetime. I knew I would regret it if I would quit and that my confidence would be wiped away and I probably wouldn't try it again anymore. So, giving up was just not an option for me!
That drive, the reason you HAVE to do it, is super important. I discovered it during the whole process (of 2 years!). I found my drive, so I was willing to accept the struggle as well. It's just nog always fun. And I believe that's often the case with big projects and dreams. It's just a matter of falling down and standing up again (like we Dutch people like to say). But if you know why you are doing it, you'll likely stand up every time after falling!
Experience is more important than I thought
A bit more about that falling and standing up again. Now I look back, I clearly see my confidence growing. I'm working on a second picture book at the moment and it's already so much easier! On the dark moment I now have the experience from my first book that things will work out, that it will be alright. So, more trust, less panic! Conclusion: with experience things get easier because you can trust yourself and the proces more!
My first attempt
I only knew I wanted to make a picture book about a flying bed. So I started, enthusiast as I was, with sketching. I made a story board, knew somewhat how the story would go, picked colours and started painting. I made some nice illustrations, but I got stuck after a few. Why? There was no true good story, the characters weren't 'alive' and I kept changing the story. Conclusion: you need a solid, good story first! And you guessed it, right? It wasn't good for my self confidence, it took a while before I could admit that I had to start over and do so.
Bumbling with the story
After that I decided to teach myself a bit more first. I read books about making picture books and writing. I asked advice and... after that I totally felt I couldn't do it. It suddenly seemd SO complicated! So many little 'rules' and 'tips'. Do yo know this? That something gets overwhelming the moment you start some research or get advice? And due to this overwhelming you are totally blocked?
I let it rest for a while. When I started to feel a bit better I just started on my story. Without rules, without books or advice. Just my story. This time I finally found the (for me important) theme I wanted to write about. I also made sure I wrote from the main characters perspective with my own experience. So the main character is me in a way. This made is more personal and therefore more scary. At the same time it made the story real and alive!
At this point I needed help. So I worked with someone who corrects text for children books and I asked every question I could think of. I learned a lot but most important I now knew from a professional that it wasn't completely weird or stupid what I was doing. I could finally silence the doubt about my story in myself.
This whole writing process (not even the research) took me two months! I never expected that! I honestly believed that I could make an entire picture book within 2 months. Boy I was wrong!
Paint paint paint!
Sounds easy right? Well... it wasn't that easy. It was a lot and I made my story about 6 kids (I'd never recommend this to anyone) which meant that I had to sketch and paint 16 x 6 characters the same way with different emotions! I could make a nice illustration, but this was next level!
Luckily I had help from a friend who was also painting her first picture book. Together we struggled and got through all of it!
Doubt is still here
And? Did you think it would be like this? Such a roller coaster of emotions spread over 2 years! Trying, failing, trying again. I would love to end this super positive and tell you it was the best thing I ever did. But at the time I write this, the picture book isn't published yet (10 days left!). And it's scary to get such a personal story out in the world, to wait for reviews and reactions. So, no I'm not totally relaxed yet but I fully trust myself in being able to make more picture books and that's gold!
So it will be fine and would you like to make your own picture book? Just start! You'll see where your adventure takes you!
The next time
In the next parts of this blog series I'm going to tell you all about why this story is so personal and about self publishing. On Instagram I get a lot of questions about self publishing, so I thought it would be great to write a blog about it!
ps. You can pre order my book now. Click HERE.