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#FirstDraftFriday with Jocelyn Watkinson

#FirstDraftFriday 2022 is drawing to a close, but we've got one more day—today—to chat with a great author and learn from their success! And of course, we'll keep things going in 2023 too...more on that to come so stay tuned. But first, let's welcome author Jocelyn Watkinson, who's here to share how her fun, fractured fairytale set in the Great White North came to be!

Cover of My Sister, Daisy

Jocelyn Watkinson’s debut picture book, THE THREE CANADIAN PIGS: A HOCKEY STORY, illustrated by Marcus Cutler, is available now from Sleeping Bear Press.

Plus, Jocelyn has a second book that she co-authored with Lori Degman coming out in 2023! TRAVEL GUIDE FOR MONSTERS PART DEUX: A CANADIAN ADVENTURE, is also with Sleeping Bear Press and illustrated by Marcus Cutler.

To order her books or learn more about Jocelyn, visit:

Jocelyn is generously offering a manuscript critique as a prize for someone who completes a draft today! (And she excels at rhyme, so all you rhymers out there definitely don't want to miss this opportunity! But prose-only writers, no worries, she can critique prose too!) Details on how to enter at the end of this post. But before we get to that...

Jocelyn, tell us about THE THREE CANADIAN PIGS and what inspired you to sit down and write the first draft of it?

I was early on in my writing career, so critique partners were scarce. I was working on a different fractured fairytale and was reading it to my mom for some feedback, when she blurted – “do the three little pigs, but make them Canadian!” I had recently moved to the United States with my husband for work and my mom knew I was feeling homesick, so her suggestion fueled a great idea for story! While I ended up having lots of ideas for the ending, the existing fairytale gave a great structure to follow which really helped with pacing and plot.

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

Plenty! Writing in rhyme is a challenge and always a difficult balance to not sacrifice the plot just for some funny rhymes. Like I mentioned above, the existing fairytale gave structure so that helped a lot. No real hiccups with this story but fine tuning it was a challenge for sure!

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

Wow – so much change. I think the stakes weren’t originally very high, so the story wasn’t very exciting. While there were some funny puns, it just didn’t make for a very interesting or eventful story. After having a few professionals give their opinion, I was able to enhance/raise the stakes and make for a more exciting plot.

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

Is it possible to be a little bit of both? I definitely start off as a pantser when I am getting the main thoughts down of a story or just a few funny rhyming couplets. Once the story starts taking shape, I start to plot out, tighten rhyme and meter and continue that patterns until I feel like I’ve got a decent first draft.

Do you ever find yourself putting off drafting a story?

ALL. THE. TIME. I’m doing it right now! 😊 Sometimes, I feel like ideas have to simmer in the back of my brain while some elements are sorted out.

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

The ending! A presentation I listened to early on in my writing career was about endings and how they need a surprise and a hook. Finding something clever and catchy usually comes with great difficulty unless it is part of the initial idea. Most times, it will come eventually, but with many revisions and back and forth with amazing critique partners.

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

I’m not sure I have many to be honest! It does take me a long time to get that first draft completed because 99% of the time I am writing in rhyme so I need the proper rhymes to come to me that work with the story. With working a full-time job during the week, I usually will have an idea during the day so it gets scribbled on a “Post It,” then days later I get to work it into the manuscript with the other ideas that popped up over the past week. I’m more of a tortoise than a hare when it comes to the first draft!

So as far as a tip – I would say before you sit down to hammer out that first draft, keep notes of all your juicy ideas, lines and rhymes, if that’s your thing!

So, reader, have you been keeping notes? On Post-Its or in your head? I hope so because #FirstDraftFriday has begun!

To enter for a chance at a free critique of one picture book manuscript from Jocelyn, do the following by 8 pm ET today (Dec. 2, 2022):

  1. Follow both me and Jocelyn on Twitter: @HollieWolverton and @JoceWatBooks

  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 pm ET tonight.

Happy drafting!

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Amy Chini
Amy Chini
Dec 03, 2022

Phew! I finished! Thanks for the support #kidlit folk!



Susan Burdorf
Susan Burdorf
Dec 02, 2022

DONE. And, just for fun - did you know I am a certified hockey coach? If the pigs ever need a new coach give me a call... :)


Done! Thanks for this post - so much resonated with me. @laureannawrites


Dec 02, 2022

I wrote a draft! Thanks for the tips Jocelyn and the opportunity! Here’s to revisions now!!!


Kamilla Milligan
Kamilla Milligan
Dec 02, 2022

I finished a draft! It's a bit long and rambly, but it was a good feeling to try out the ideas. Not on twitter much, but @kamillamilligan when I am

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