Thursday, September 8, 2011

How we work together

I've mentioned before that Jennifer Aikman-Smith of Dragon Dreams Inc., is the illustrator and publisher of my first two books.  We are very fortunate to live in the same area so we can get together regularly to work on our books. In large publishing houses, the writer and illustrator often never see each other.  The story is bought, given to an illustrator in the publisher's stable of illustrators and that is that.  Jen told me of one famous children's author who, upon seeing her completed book for the first time, sat down and cried because she hated the drawings.

When I'm finished with the manuscript, I give it to Jen to start to work with.  She has already seen a "almost finished" draft, one where the story is pretty much finalized, so she can start planning her drawings.  She breaks the story down into pages and then blocks out areas in the text to insert her drawings.  Then the work really begins.

As she puts things together there is a constant stream of emails along the line of..." the 3rd paragraph on page 48, I need it 3 words shorter" - or longer.  The hardest is when she removes a drawing completely, which creates a gap and I need to write a paragraph or two to fit into the gap.  So I have content on either side to match up without an obvious blip in the story.

We get together for an hour or two a week to finalize pages, fix grammar and so on.  We have two "final readers" who get the chapters as they're done to check, spelling, look for typos, see that the drawings match the story, etc., etc.  It is quite a process since we also have day jobs to work around.

However, finally it's done and we are always pleased with the result.  No surprises from the printer and no surprises from our work.  Now the work of marketing begins and that is a whole different experience which we both enjoy.  I hope to see you at a book signing somewhere in the Maritimes between now and Christmas.  Look for "Emily Finds a Dragon" in Chapters and other fine independent bookstores in the Maritimes.

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