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#FirstDraftFriday with Margaret Aitken is here!

It’s 1/1/2021, and that means it’s time to start the year “write.”


Thank you for joining #FirstDraftFriday. I hope you get a new picture book draft written today and enjoy learning from our guest author, Margaret Aitken!


Margaret is generously offering a manuscript critique as a prize for someone who completes a draft...how’s that for motivation? Details at the end of this post!


Margaret’s debut picture book entitled OLD FRIENDS is coming out Spring 2022 from Feiwel and Friends with Lenny Wen illustrating.


Let’s learn what inspired Margaret to sit down and write the first draft of OLD FRIENDS.

One morning, an idea came to me about a child who was an “old soul”—someone who liked doing things usually associated with older people, e.g., gardening, knitting. I knew it wasn’t something I had seen in picture books before.


From my reading, I knew there were lots of picture books about the grandchild-

grandparent relationship but not as many about friendship between a child and a senior. I had experienced first-hand the benefits of young children socializing with seniors through my son’s preschool trips to the local care home (pre-COVID, of course!) It was a message I thought was important and underrepresented in picture books.


As I wrote my first draft, a memory came to me of my brother who, at eight years old, dressed up as an elderly lady for Halloween one year (he won first prize!) It sparked the idea for Marjorie, my main character, to disguise herself as a senior. My story idea was born!


What was the drafting process like?


I tend to write my picture book first drafts in one go (or sometimes two). I think this was the case with OLD FRIENDS, but the story has definitely evolved since that first attempt.


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


It was so interesting looking back at my first draft! I was surprised to see that the core of the story hasn’t really changed that much but the writing is now a lot tighter and there has been an extra scene added.


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


I have freestyled a lot of stories, and I have also plotted a few … so I’m a plantser?! I do have the habit of getting wrapped up in the characters/setting/language and paying less attention to the logic of stories, so I should probably plot more often!


Do you ever find yourself putting off drafting a story?


Unlike some writers, I really enjoy writing the first draft. I get excited about new, sparkly ideas. The part I find most challenging is tweaking and editing stories that are nearly polished. I can get a bit impatient. If that happens, I usually put my story away for a few days and come back with fresh eyes.


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


I find it frustrating when I have a vision in my head that doesn’t come out the way I want it on paper. I usually put stories away and work on something else for a while. It can also be helpful to discuss your thoughts with CPs to help spark ideas.


If I’m not getting anywhere with a story idea, then I have no qualms about retiring it and moving on to something else. It’s a good idea to have a bank of story ideas you can look at for inspiration.


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


I think it helps to write the story as soon as inspiration strikes. And to remember that the first draft is purely a way to get your thoughts onto paper.


Also, for me, I have to be excited by an idea. I never put my writing time into something that wouldn’t thrill me as a reader.


So that’s how Margaret does it! What about you?


What are you excited about today? Are you feeling inspired? Are you ready to get that new, sparkly idea down on the page?


I hope so because #FirstDraftFriday has officially begun!!


To enter for a chance at a free critique from Margaret:

  1. Follow both me and Margaret on Twitter (@HollieWolverton and @mgtaitken) before 8 p.m. EST.

  2. Complete your picture book draft by 8 p.m. EST.

  3. Return to this blog post and comment by 8 p.m. EST. Just let us know in the comment that you 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 p.m. EST.


Have fun! Happy writing! Can’t wait to see how many of us come out of this with a new draft to start the new year!!


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