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#FirstDraftFriday with Dazzle Ng

#FirstDraftFriday 2024 is kicking off with the amazing Dazzle Ng, who's here to share how her picture book debut came to be! Read on to get inspired and then draft your own picture book manuscript today.

Cover of My Sister, Daisy

WHEN AN ELEPHANT HEARS NO, written by Dazzle Ng and illustrated by Estrela Lourenco, is coming out later this month from Page Street Kids.


To pre-order or learn more about Dazzle, visit: dazzleng.com

Dazzle 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 Dazzle! Can you tell us a little about what inspired you to sit down and write the first draft of WHEN AN ELEPHANT HEARS NO?


When an Elephant Hears NO is about a little elephant’s encounters with this tiny word that elicits such big feelings. That little elephant was my son one night, when I gave him a quick NO and his face just fell. It was the mad rush of bedtime, so I didn’t have the time (or energy!) to explain it to him then, but this book can now tell him that I really meant “not now.”


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?


I dove right in and finished the rough draft that night! All those NOs just kept tumbling out. This is definitely not how I typically churn out a first draft. But whether I take hours or weeks, the important part of my process is feeling joy whenever I work on the manuscript. 


When it takes longer and you're mulling over an idea, do you do any pre-drafting or brainstorming exercises to help you flesh it out?


Pre-drafting is a great term! I do like bringing my ideas to life on a blank sheet of paper first. If it’s concept-driven, mind-mapping helps expand my vision and identify key/fun details. If it’s a narrative piece, I write on the right-hand pages and leave notes on the left. I usually end up with text written in all directions and arrows going everywhere!


Do you remember what you thought of your first draft of WHEN AN ELEPHANT HEARS NO when it was done? Did you think it was a winner or were you not even sure you’d keep working on it?


Right then and there, I knew it was special. It felt like a picture book—not even a story or a draft. I could imagine the illustrations; and oh, how Estrela has brought these characters and scenes to life!


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.


A particular line that was tough to let go of came after the tantrum (TOOOOOOOOOT! STOMP! EEEEEEEEEEE! RWARRRRR!):


Until it is legs up on the floor

trunk and tail in a twist!


I liked the alliteration and the imagery of those last few words, especially. But we had to compress the tantrum momentum to get to the NOs faster. It all worked out!


Love the alliteration and imagery. Glad you got to use that darling here in this interview! What is the hardest part of writing a first draft for you? And how do you deal with that?


The hardest part is that moment when my initial enthusiasm about the idea starts to fade and the doubts begin creeping in. That buzz from ideas and words rushing in is replaced by the buzzing in my head that the project isn’t really worth completing, that the concept wasn’t great after all.


It then becomes a decision point for me, to keep going or to stop. I take the reality check for what it is. If I continue writing, then there’s really something to the story. If not, then I still enjoyed the process and undoubtedly learned something from it.


Any other tips and tricks for getting that first draft committed to the page?


When you feel like sitting in front of the computer isn’t getting you or the story anywhere, write in another way. Take a break and write in your head, stare out the window and notice details, go for a walk and just think about your story. These all still count as writing and help you return to the page stronger, more focused, and with your fascination reawakened. 


I hope everyone's fascination is awake today because it's #FirstDraftFriday!


To enter for a chance at a free picture book (fiction, non-rhyme) critique from Dazzle, do the following by 10 pm ET today (Jan. 5, 2024):

  1. Follow me and Dazzle on Twitter @HollieWolverton and @dazzleng (You can also follow Dazzle on Instagram at @dazzleng.books)

  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 drafting!

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