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#FirstDraftFriday with Andrew Hacket

If you've been on social media lately, you've probably noticed that author Andrew "Andy" Hacket is tearing things up with not one, not two, but THREE books out in the last two months! Just how does he do it? Well, he'll tell you how today on #FirstDraftFriday! We'll focus on his latest book, HOPE AND THE SEA, to get a feel for his process.

Read on to get inspired and then draft your own picture book manuscript today.

HOPE AND THE SEA, written by Andrew Hacket and illustrated by Svetla Radivoeva, came out at the end of May from WorthyKids. 

Pick up a copy at your local indie or order from Andy's local indie here.

To learn more about Andy, visit: 

Andy is generously offering a manuscript critique as a prize for someone who completes a draft today! Details on how to enter at the end of this post.

Welcome, Andy! Can you tell us a little about HOPE AND THE SEA and what inspired you to sit down and write the first draft of it?! 

HOPE AND THE SEA was inspired, first and foremost, by my love for the ocean. Having been a child who grew up with regular trips to the beach, the coast holds a special place in my heart. 

Digging deeper, the catalyst for writing this story was wanting to experiment with settings as characters. Prior to drafting HOPE AND THE SEA, I had written a few contest pieces that explored this. HOPE was my first attempt at exercising this in a slightly longer format. 

Did you dive right in and start drafting when you had the idea or did you let it stew for a while? Is this how you typically work? Or was this process different for your other books?

For this piece I brainstormed a bit, but then dove right into drafting. With my first two published stories, Ollie, the Acorn, and the Mighty Idea (illos by Kaz Windness) and Curlilocks & the Three Hares (illos by Jan Dolby), I hung out in the brainstorming phase much longer and also put in some serious revision work to get each piece to publication. 

I wrote HOPE a bit later into my writing journey and as a result was feeling more confident in my voice, style, and the message I wanted to relay. All of this helped me approach the manuscript more directly and produce a polished piece much quicker than I had previously done.

While you mull over an idea, do you do any pre-drafting or brainstorming exercises to help you flesh it out?

I don’t have a specific routine or process that I am beholden to, but I do tend to outline to some extent and jot notes and action points in a notebook. It is very seldom that I jump right to typing the first draft. Aside from the scribbling of half concocted thoughts, most of the idea development happens mentally. Often ideas ruminate for a bit, finding moments of clarity in those blissful, quiet, falling asleep and waking moments. 

Do you remember what you thought of your first draft of HOPE AND THE SEA when it was done? Did you think it was a winner or were you not even sure you’d keep working on it? 

After the first draft I knew I had something I wanted to stick with, but I do not think at that moment I had confidence that it would be published. A few drafts later, when the language and voice were shaping up, I began to feel better about it, as did my critique partners. One of them, Kelly Swemba, even commented, “This story is beautiful. I absolutely love it and can't help but think this is the one!”

Can you share an excerpt of your original manuscript that changed significantly and how it appears in the final book? How did you know this needed work and what was the process like to get it where it is today?

From the conception of the book I knew I wanted to show this relationship between Hope and the Sea, but I hadn’t yet developed the backstory for Hope and what led up to the interactions between the two characters. As a result, my beginning started off a bit challenged. 

“Alone on the beach, Hope sat.”

This is how the first draft began and then jumped right into Hope’s interactions with Sea. I knew this wasn’t enough at the time, but also did not want to get creatively bogged down with this part when I knew the actions I wanted to happen in the middle. So instead, I dropped the above line as a place holder and moved on.

A couple of drafts later I tried out the opening below. This was very specific and worked to explain Hope’s initial feelings. 

“Moving had not been her choice. Leaving her friends had not been her choice. None of this was her choice. 

 Alone on the beach, Hope sits.

Broken shells surround. Squawking gulls mock.” 

This was better, but not perfect. After more critiques, revising, and editor advice we finally landed on:

“Past the marsh grass and

beyond the dunes,

Hope huddles alone.

Her feelings shift like the sand.

A trickle of tears threatens to flood.

Making friends is hard.

Not having any is harder.”

Did you have any favorite darlings you had to cut that you’d like to share here. Tell us why you loved it and why it had to go.

In an earlier version, the story began focusing on Sea rather than Hope. It opened:

Past the marsh grass and through the dunes, just beyond the sandy shore, Sea rests, filled to her depths with loneliness. 

I absolutely loved this description of Sea, the use of the word depths, and how it built this connection between Hope and Sea immediately based on their shared feelings of loneliness. 

Ultimately, I choose to cut it to focus this opening page on Hope. I was, however, able to salvage bits of it and towards the end of the story have, “Sea waves, filled to its depths with happiness.”

What is the hardest part of writing a first draft for you? And how do you deal with that?

I hate first drafts. To me they are a necessary evil I just have to push through. As a writer I struggle to get out of my own head and constantly want to revise my words the moment they hit the page, which makes it awfully hard to get the sentences flowing and a first draft down. 

One strategy that works for me is to set a timer. I commit to 12 minutes of drafting time. Once I hit start on the timer I just have to write. No second guessing. No deleting. No revising. Just type, type, type! This has helped my quiet the internal critic and get that messy first draft on paper. 

Then I can move onto my favorite part, REVISING!

The timer trick is great! Reader, if you need a little help getting going, try it today because it's #FirstDraftFriday!

To enter for a chance at a free picture book (fiction, non-rhyming) critique from Andy, do the following by 10 pm ET today (June 7, 2024):

  1. Follow me and Andy on Twitter: @HollieWolverton and @AndrewCHacket (or find him on Instagram here)

  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 or full name. 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 10 pm ET tonight.

Happy writing!

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Draft done! With the long Alaska days, I lost track of time, so missed the deadline. But I forgot to even write draft done last month, so I figure better late than never! Thanks for sharing, Andrew! Looking forward to reading this book - maybe when we don;t have so much daylight here. Thanks, Hollie, for hosting.


Jun 08

Thanks for the inspiration to write a draft today! Congratulations on your books, Andrew! Love the 12 minute timer idea!

Abby Wooldridge



3 books out so close - Andrew, you are amazing! Thank you for sharing your process with Hope and the Sea. I'm looking forward to reading and sharing it. Wishing you continued success!

And I have a very rough draft done but I think it shows process. I'm following all three of you.


I love writing first drafts - but that is because I am a glutton for punishment. And I need a jumping off point to get me started. Many times the first draft hits a snag and is thrown away with only random phrases surviving the editing massacre, but your process sounds pretty good too. Thank you. I love the images, you illio did a fantastic job of catching the playfulness of the ocean and the loneliness of Hope. Love this. I have written a first draft! Thank you for the chance. @sburdorf


I wrote a first draft. It's goofy. I'm Marilyn Wolpin @MNW51. Thanks for the post, Andrew and Hollie! Happy writing everyone!

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