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#FirstDraftFriday - Start February “Write”

Today’s the first Friday of February...time to start the month “write” with a new picture book draft!

Read on to see how our guest author, Norene Paulson, turns ideas into published stories! Then open a Word doc or bust out a notebook and get drafting.

Norene is generously offering a manuscript critique as a prize for someone who completes a draft today! Details at the end of this post.

Norene’s second picture book entitled WHAT’S SILLY HAIR DAY WITH NO HAIR? will be released next month from Albert Whitman with illustrations by Camila Carrossine.

It’s available for pre-order now!

Her first picture book, BENNY’S TRUE COLORS, with illustrations by Anne Passchier came out from Imprint, Macmillan in November 2020.

See Norene’s website for ordering links:

Let’s learn what inspired Norene to sit down and write the first draft of WHAT’S SILLY HAIR DAY WITH NO HAIR?

I write stories about friendship, inclusion, and acceptance because as a former teacher I know kids who don’t fit a certain mold often struggle to find friends, to be included, and to be unconditionally accepted. Knowing several adults with hair loss due to either alopecia or cancer treatment started me thinking about hair loss in children, so I spent time researching and learned that hair loss affects millions of kids and is most common in children 5-12 years old. That surprised me, and at that moment I knew I wanted to write a story for those kids. A story with a MC who looked like them…representation is important.

What was the drafting process like? Any hiccups with getting the first draft done?

For me, every first draft begins with a mental incubation period. I literally can spend months mulling the idea over. Once it gels a bit, I sit down and start spilling the ideas out onto the paper.

How did the manuscript change from that first draft to what it is today?

The first draft is always just ideas. No dialogue, no page turns, no art notes…just a rough arc of ideas—a beginning, a middle, and an end.

My favorite quote is from Jane Smiley—“Every first draft is perfect because all a first draft has to do is exist,” and that’s all mine do.

Once the draft exists then the changing begins. For SILLY HAIR, I added dialogue, cut words, created page turns, and thought about how to leave room for the illustrations.

Are you a pantser or a plotter? And how does that affect your drafting of a story?

It really depends on how long the idea has been percolating in my head beforehand. For both BENNY and SILLY HAIR, I had the beginning, the middle, and the end pretty much thought out before I sat down to write. I like having a direction and knowing where I’m headed before I get started. Doesn’t always happen that way, but for me writing the story is easier and more fun when it does…so I guess plotting is easier for me than winging it, but I’ve done both.

Do you ever find yourself putting off drafting a story?

Yes, I’m a procrastinator. I think a part of me is always afraid to get started. It’s a giant leap from having a great idea in your head to reading the actual words on paper because sometimes the two don’t mesh. Sometimes an idea I thought wonderful sounds awkward and disjointed when written down.

What is the hardest part of drafting a story for you? And how do you deal with that?

The hardest part is staying in love with the story once I start writing it. I also have trouble with endings. I usually write several different endings trying to find the one I think works the best.

Oddly enough, the easiest part of drafting for me is writing the title. I love writing titles. I actually have some really good titles that don’t have stories for them yet. For example, GOATS ON THE GO about a lawn service run by goats. Their slogan is “We Eat What You Don’t Want to Grow”. I just can’t find a sustainable plot to go with it and I’ve tried. Suggestions, anyone?

What are your tips and tricks for getting that first draft committed to the page?

My first tip is to find a story idea you love and can’t wait to write, and when you do, don’t fall down the social media/internet rabbit hole. I’m terrible at “I’ll check email for a minute” or “I’ll check Twitter for a second.” Two hours later I haven’t done anything and my enthusiasm has disappeared. You can’t revise a blank page so sit down, stay focused, and get it done.

That’s the key, folks: Sit down, stay focused, and get it done!


I hope so because #FirstDraftFriday has officially begun!!

To enter for a chance at a free picture book manuscript (non-rhyming) critique from Norene, you must do the following by 8 p.m. ET today (Feb. 5, 2021):

  1. Follow both me and Norene on Twitter: @HollieWolverton and @norenepaulson

  2. Complete a full picture book draft

  3. 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).

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 p.m. ET tonight.

Good luck!

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Congratulations to everyone who completed a first draft today and thanks for letting me hang out with you while you did. I'm thinking of joining in the fun come the first Friday in March.


Feb 06, 2021

Well, the down side of the west coast but still got it done before 8pm PST!


Feb 06, 2021

I'm a minute or two late, but I wrote my Friday first draft today! Sarah Meade


@teamgillybean on Twitter. First draft done! V-day story.


Feb 06, 2021

I started planning one, and ended up writing another. One mss first draft done! @tonnyef on Twitter

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