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#FirstDraftFriday with Stephanie Wildman

It's the second-to-last #FirstDraftFriday of 2022 (Can you believe it?), and we've got author Stephanie Wildman here to talk about her new book...which actually didn't start out as a picture book at all! Read on to be inspired by her story.

Cover of My Sister, Daisy

Stephanie Wildman’s new book, TREASURE HUNT, illustrated by Estefania Razo, released just a few days ago from Lawley Publishing. She is also the author of BRAVE IN THE WATER, illustrated by Jenni Feidler-Aguilar.

To learn more about Stephanie visit:

You can order TREASURE HUNT anywhere books are sold.

Stephanie is generously offering a manuscript critique as a prize for someone who completes a draft today! Details at the end of this post. But before we get to that...

Stephanie, tell us a little about TREASURE HUNT and what inspired you to sit down and write the first draft of it?

The first draft of Treasure Hunt was a short story for an ecology/green-based writing competition. (I didn’t win). But I loved the eco-themed story about, then, a grandma and grandson saving a cardboard box and searching for odds and ends that most people think of as trash, in order to make puppets and a puppet theater.

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

You might say the true first draft, when I envisioned the story as a picture book, was to refashion the tale into a grandma with twins who competed to find the treasures. So no hiccups, because I was kind of working from a draft already. I tried to introduce some tension and humor.

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

The biggest change is the book has no grandma (unlike my first book Brave in the Water). My teacher, mentor, and friend Maxine Rose Schur read Treasure Hunt and said, “Whenever you can take an adult out of picture book, you should.” So I thought about who could rescue the box, if not a grandma, and I decided it was the big brother who became Luis in this version.

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

I am a combination pantser and plotter. I’m writing a MG right now with co-author Ann Kim, and we have an outline, but we also improvise. I love the motto that first drafts need not be perfect, they just need to be written. My own picture books have leaned toward the pantser side of the scale and then I plot a lot on revision. Even though I’m not an illustrator, I do block the book out, imagining how each picture spread will look, paying attention to page turns.

Do you ever find yourself putting off drafting a story?

Let me count the ways. I look forward to First Draft Fridays, because it’s a day I know I will try to get something down on paper. These monthly deadlines have helped me keep up with the 12x12 Picture Book Challenge where I aspire to write a draft a month. This might be the first year I make that goal!

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

The hardest part of drafting is starting with that fresh page or blank screen (and of course finding uninterrupted time!). See my next answer for my accountability methods. I find it easier to start writing when I have someone I have to tell about it.

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

I’m lucky to be part of a wonderful critique group, and we give each other deadlines to share work before each meeting. Even then I do flake out. I’m also part of the Writers Grotto and have several weekly accountability writing sessions with members of that group. We open a zoom window, check in, mute, and report back to each other on what we got done. And finally, I meet regularly with another co-author Adam Chang, and we write during those sessions, too.

Well, if it's a deadline you want, you're in the right place because #FirstDraftFriday has begun!

To enter for a chance at a free critique of one picture book manuscript (non-rhyming, 600 word limit) from Stephanie, do the following by 8 pm ET today (Nov. 4, 2022):

  1. Follow both me and Stephanie on Twitter: @HollieWolverton and @SWildmanSF

  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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