Wildflowers have popped up everywhere outside, and now they're putting in an appearance on #FirstDraftFriday as author Hà Dinh joins us today to chat about her debut, WHERE WILDFLOWERS GROW. Read on to get inspired and then draft your own picture book manuscript today.
WHERE WILDFLOWERS GROW, written by Hà Dinh and illustrated by Bao Luu, will be out June 13 from Penguin Random House.
To pre-order or learn more about Hà, visit: happydaysinfirstgrade.com
Hà 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 Hà, tell us a little about WHERE WILDFLOWERS GROW and what inspired you to sit down and write the first draft of it?
First and foremost, thank you so much for having me! This story was inspired by my memories of relocating from Vietnam to a refugee camp in the Philippines and then to America when I was 5 years old. I decided to write this story so that my children can remember how our side of the family came to America and to share such an important time and setting in history that is not often depicted in children’s literature.
Did you start drafting right away once you decided to write this story or did you let it
stew for a while? Is this how you typically work?
Whenever I have an idea, I often think it through in my head before drafting. This process can sometimes take days, weeks, or even months. For this book, it took me months from thinking through the storyline to drafting. While I always intended this to be a picture book, the more I wrote, the more it felt like a middle grade book. Therefore, I had to really scale my writing back and made many revisions as I drafted.
While you mull over an idea, do you do any pre-drafting or brainstorming exercises to help you flesh it out?
For me, it’s just easier if I brainstormed everything in my head and think through the storyline before I begin drafting. I have to visualize the story before writing and while I write, I tend to revise. It’s never a straightforward process for me, but I just love it when it all comes together at the end.
Do you remember what you thought of your first draft of this story when it was done?
The first draft definitely read like an MG because I wanted to include so many details and layers to the story. I knew before completion that there would be a lot of revisions ahead, so I gave myself grace to just write. From there, it went through many critique partners and even a submission to Rate Your Story, which I am very grateful for.
Was there any part of your original manuscript that changed significantly or any darling you had to cut that you’d like to share here?
This section changed quite a bit.
It was moving day.
Everyone in my family had waited excitedly for this day to arrive.
Everyone, except me.
Today is moving day.
Ba pulls the curtains back and stretches his arms to the sky.
Má gently brushes her hair and clips it back.
My siblings rush out of bed one by one, smiling brighter than the sun and wider than the window in our bunkhouse.
I stay underneath the blanket.
Luckily, I didn’t have to cut out anyone or anything that I really wanted to stay in the story. We did end up changing the title from MY FOREVER HOME to WHERE WILDFLOWERS GROW, which I admit did take some time to ‘grow’ on me, but I do love my new title so much now.
Your FINAL excerpt above is a perfect example of "Show, Don't Tell." I love how the emotion comes through in the characters' actions. The DRAFT version is more tell-y, but it got you where you needed to be to create the FINAL so it did its job! For you, what is the hardest part of writing a first draft? And how do you deal with that?
I'm always wondering if the story in my head is “good enough” to be written. Whenever I think of an idea, I get very excited and begin drafting it in my head. However, when I sit down to type it out, I sometimes second guess myself and have to push through to just draft it.
What are your tips and tricks for getting that first draft committed to the page?
One thing that really helps me is when the inspiration strikes, I start brainstorming and typing right away. This really helps my ideas to flow and helps me to feel committed to write. Once I am done drafting, I love having my agent, who has an editorial background, skim through it. I value this so much because it helps me know what her overall impression of the story is, if it is relatable, and if it’s a good story to commit to.
OK, who's been brainstorming? Who's ready to push through to "just draft it"? I hope you are because it's #FirstDraftFriday!
To enter for a chance at a free picture book critique (non-rhyming) from Hà, do the following by 10 pm ET today (June 2, 2023):
Complete a full picture book draft
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.