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#FirstDraftFriday with Susan Yoon

I've been eagerly awaiting today's #FirstDraftFriday to chat with author Susan Yoon about her debut picture book, WAITING FOR TOMORROW. Read on to get inspired and then draft your own picture book manuscript today.

Cover of My Sister, Daisy

WAITING FOR TOMORROW, written by Susan Yoon and illustrated by Julie Kwon, will be out in October from FSG Books for Young Readers/Macmillan.


To pre-order or learn more about Susan, visit: susanyoon.com

Susan 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 Susan! Tell us a little about WAITING FOR TOMORROW and what inspired you to sit down and write the first draft of it?


Most of my stories come from a phrase I hear in my head — it’s usually a character talking or a phrase that belongs at the beginning or end of a story. For WAITING, it was a very young girl saying, “But when is tomorrow?” And I thought it could be about a girl waiting for a special thing that was going to happen tomorrow. Then I thought, what could that be? And one of the things that I would get excited about as a kid was my dad coming home after work.


I kept brainstorming from there, and I talked to my sister about some things we used to consider special, and that conversation landed me on a memory of me and my sister going to the store one day in November and me wearing sandals against her advice. We live in Toronto, and it was winter :)


I write about this in the Author’s Note, but that memory ended up becoming the core of this book.

Once you had the "core," did the story come together quickly? Or was there still lots of thinking to be done before drafting started? How do you typically work?


When I get an idea I always brainstorm into a notebook. Just loose thoughts, making connections. I often have specific phrases I want to use. The story really takes shape in my notebook, while physically writing, and not in my head for the most part.


For some stories the brainstorming stage is very long, like months, and sometimes maybe years? It’s kinda funny how this is going to be my first book, because it came together very quickly. I think I had a first draft within a month of getting the idea.


Do you remember what you thought of your first draft of WAITING FOR TOMORROW when it was done? Did you think it was a winner or were you not even sure you’d keep working on it?


I definitely thought it had potential. This is very much an exception.


HA! I can relate to that feeling of something having potential being the exception. Was there any part of your original manuscript that changed significantly, and if so, how did you know it needed work?


Once we had illustrations, things changed! It was a lot of fun working with Julie’s illustrations, working through it with my editor to see if certain page turns made sense when text and pictures started working together. I think this was my favorite part of the picture book making process; it was like working through little puzzles.


The part that changed the most was when Hanna brings in the snow from outside, and Haejin rejects it. It was a bit of a puzzle because in the original manuscript two emotional moments happen on that page, which is that Hanna goes from happy (when she shows her sister what she brought) to disappointed (when her sister rejects it) but there was only room for one emotion in the illustrations. So after playing with the text a lot, I thought we could take out one and let the reader imagine it. So the happy happens in the reader’s imagination during the page turn, and not on the page. Well, I hope.


Originally it was:

“Look! We can start over!”

Haejin turns her head a little.


And the final is:

But Haejin says, “That’s nothing, Hanna. Just some snow.”


For you, what is the hardest part of writing a first draft? And how do you deal with that?


Honestly, just doing it. I think I often procrastinate on first drafts because I’m afraid it won’t work. I do get that feeling though, like I’ll know I’m just continuing to brainstorm even though I have enough to start something. How I deal with that is that I just tell myself today’s the day I’m going to sit down and do it; and basically have that as the only writing task of the day. Not even journaling or responding to emails can happen on that day - lol. I think I have a very limited attention span for writing most of the time.


Is that your top tip for getting that first draft committed to the page?


Yes. Sit down at your desk :) Decide it’s the only writing task for the day.


Who's ready to sit down and write a new draft? I hope you are because it's #FirstDraftFriday!


To enter for a chance at a free picture book critique from Susan, do the following by 10 pm ET today (Aug. 4, 2023):

  1. Follow me on Twitter @HollieWolverton and Susan on Instagram @susansyoon (if you aren't on one of these platforms, it's still OK to enter the giveaway)

  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 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.


Happy drafting!

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