Another #FirstDraftFriday...another chance to write your new favorite manuscript! Guest author Tracy C. Gold is here to inspire you with the tale of how her second book came to be! Then, it's your turn to draft a brand-spanking new picture book! You've got this!
BONUS! Tracy is generously offering a manuscript critique as a prize for someone who completes a draft today! Details at the end of this post.
Tracy is the author of EVERYONE’S SLEEPY BUT THE BABY, as well as the just-released TRICK OR TREAT, BUGS TO EAT, illustrated by Nancy Leschnikoff and published by Sourcebooks eXplore! (How cute is that bat?)
To order her books, visit:
Let's learn a little about TRICK OR TREAT, BUGS TO EAT and what inspired Tracy to sit down and write the first draft of it?
TRICK OR TREAT, BUGS TO EAT is about a very hungry bat searching for yummy bugs on Halloween. It’s a cute, funny, rhyming book with non-fictional information about bats and bugs in the back. In terms of where I got the idea, about five years ago, I was in Austin, Texas, for a friend’s wedding and saw a million bats fly out from under Congress Bridge at sunset. A few years later, my agent, Carrie Pestritto, mentioned that editors were looking for Halloween books. I remembered those amazing bats and got writing!
What was that process like? Any hiccups with getting the first draft done?
For me, rhyming is all about playing! I constantly walk around making up silly songs for my toddler, my dog, and honestly, myself, so to draft a rhyming picture book it’s really a matter of channeling and writing down those silly songs—and having the time to do it when not taking care of my toddler! Working off the basic “Trick or Treat, Smell My Feet” rhyme made this easier. When I am drafting a rhyming book, I expect to write about 30-40 stanzas and then narrow it down by myself and with critique partners to my 10-15 favorites. With this book, I needed to pause and research what bats ate along this process, but mainly I remembered what I’d learned in Texas all those years ago and then double checked. My bat-expert friend Liz Mering also helped me with fact checking, but that was way, way after the first draft!
How did the manuscript change from that first draft to what it is today?
Well, I had to cut my favorite stanza because no one else liked it, so here it is:
They’re like batty
It was a lot of cutting, rearranging, adding, and rewording with my critique partners and my agent. Once I knew my agent liked the general idea, I also added a few hundred words at the end with non-fictional information about bats. I also worked with Kelly Barrales-Saylor and the team at Sourcebooks eXplore to rewrite some stanzas and tweak a few words once the illustrations were done. It can be extremely tricky to edit a rhyming picture book because sometimes if one word needs to change, the whole stanza might not work anymore and you have to rewrite the whole stanza but make sure that it matches the illustrations still if those are done!
Are you a pantser or a plotter? And how does that affect your drafting of a story?
For picture books, I know the beginning and ending before I start to write and then I just fill in the middle. For TRICK OR TREAT, BUGS TO EAT, this was not hard—at the beginning the bat was hungry and at the end it was full! It was just a matter of coming up with lots of fun bugs for the bat to eat. For a book I have forthcoming in 2023, CALL YOUR MOTHER, I knew that the baby in the beginning of the book would become a parent at the end. Picture books are so short that I do tend to know what’s going to happen before I sit down to write.
Do you ever find yourself putting off drafting a story?
I also write novels (with none published…yet) and I do certainly put that work off because it is just so much more time consuming and life gets in the way! With picture books, sometimes, yes, I choose to binge on Netflix instead of drafting at night if I’m exhausted, but generally when I get an idea I am excited about, I will drop everything to write a draft, even if it’s just on the notes on my phone. (I am sorry to all the friends and family members I have ignored to do this.)
What is the hardest part of drafting a story for you? And how do you deal with that?
Finding time when I have a lot of mental energy to revise a picture book is harder than writing the first draft for me. I get emotional about feedback and know that I need some time to let it sit. When I sit down to revise, I like to be able to read all of the feedback I have gotten (from multiple CPs at once normally) and read the book over and over again, and as a working mom of a toddler it’s not always easy to find a few hours of solitude to do so.
What are your tips and tricks for getting that first draft committed to the page?
Embrace your phone! I use the notes app on my iPhone all the time to jot down notes on my picture book. Then I can just copy and paste to a Word doc on my Mac and go from there. Also, don’t get too caught up on research or making it perfect on the first draft. For the first draft, you just want to get the idea you are excited about written down and you can make sure it is correct and readable later. For longer projects, I find that I need more of a schedule and to make a meeting that I keep with myself to work on a book for an hour a day.
Now isn't the time to research or worry about perfection! Now is the time to draft... because #FirstDraftFriday has officially begun!
To enter for a chance at a free critique of a picture book manuscript (1000 words or less) from Tracy, you must do the following by 8 pm ET today (Aug 6, 2021):
Complete a full picture book draft
Return to this blog post and comment that you’ve completed your draft and provide your Twitter handle. You will need to Sign Up/Log In to leave a comment (it’s easy - just an email and password). NOTE: You may get notifications as others leave comments (unfortunately, this is how Wix works), feel free to hit "unsubscribe" at the bottom of any notification you receive if they bother you! You will still be signed up for the giveaway.
You don’t need to send in your draft or provide proof - we’re all about the honor system here! The lucky winner will be randomly drawn from the comments and announced on Twitter shortly after 8 pm ET tonight.