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#FirstDraftFriday with Harshita Jerath

Woohoo, we're marching toward spring! And what better way to welcome the new season than with a new picture book draft during #FirstDraftFriday. Guest author Harshita Jerath is here to share her process and new book to get you ready to write!

Cover of My Sister, Daisy

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


Harshita Jerath’s debut picture book, THE LEAPING LADDOO, illustrated by Kamala Nair, is out this month from Albert Whitman & Co.


To order, visit:

bookshop.org/books/the-leaping-laddoo/9780807544136


Her next picture book is COOLER THAN LEMONADE, which comes out in March 2023 from Sourcebooks.


To learn more about Harshita and her work, visit: harshitajerath.com


Let's hear from Harshita about what inspired her to sit down and write the first draft of THE LEAPING LADDOO.

THE LEAPING LADDOO (luh-DOO) is a fun, cultural variation of the Gingerbread Man classic in which an Indian dessert, laddoo, runs away from the hands of its maker.


The idea of the story came to me while I was shaping laddoos, and I promptly noted the idea onto my kitchen notepad. So writing the first draft did not involve sitting on a desk. It was quite impromptu.


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

My first draft was very rudimentary. I listed the idea and the Indian street scenes that I wanted to be part of the story. So creating the first draft wasn’t difficult for this particular story as I had the existing structure of the Gingerbread Man classic to play around with.

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


Even though the main idea remained more or less the same, there were many iterations. I worked on chopping some scenes to keep the word count low. I revised the refrain multiple times, ultimately selecting a very simple variation of the original one, and I also worked on different versions of the endings. I wanted the ending to be unassuming, so a lot of my effort went in experimenting with the right ending.

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


Pantser. To me the process of writing is similar to cooking, and I don’t enjoy following a recipe to the T. Once I know what I’m making, I add little bit of this, a pinch of that without getting too specific into the measurements. Similarly while writing, I start with a basic idea and from there on it is an adventure.


Do you ever find yourself putting off drafting a story?


Yes, many times. And then I regret it because I let that inspiration fade away.

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


Getting the right ending is hard for me. But I’ve learnt not to get bogged down by it.


And then I also get stuck on the names of the characters. I can’t move forward until I get them right. I’m trying to get over it by putting a placeholder- X and Y, until the right names come to me.


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


Inspiration for a story can come any time. Identify the times/places where you get these creative spurts the most and keep a writing tool handy. I get maximum ideas when I’m cooking and also while driving alone. I have a notepad in my kitchen, and I dictate on my phone while driving. Don’t let these inspirational moments go waste. What starts as an idea, easily transforms into my first draft if I commit few extra minutes.


I type these noted drafts onto my laptop whenever I get a chance. At least I sleep in peace knowing the drafts/ideas are alive on my notepad (paper or phone).


Readers, keep your inspiration from fading away! Get that idea down and drafted because #FirstDraftFriday starts now!


To enter for a chance at a free critique of a picture book manuscript (less than 1,000 words) from Harshita, do the following by 8 pm ET today (March 4, 2022):

  1. Follow both me and Harshita on Twitter: @HollieWolverton and @HJerath

  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). NOTE: You may get notifications as others leave comments (I'm hoping not as Wix has offered me a fix to try!), 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.


Happy writing!

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