June's off to a wild start with #PitMad yesterday and #PBPitch later this month. It can be hard to focus on writing with such distractions, but they say in this business to always be working on something new. So #FirstDraftFriday is here with guest author Annemarie Riley Guertin to help you do just that!
BONUS! Annemarie is generously offering a manuscript critique as a prize for someone who completes a draft today! Details at the end of this post.
Annemarie is the author of HOW THE FINCH GOT HIS COLORS and WHY EVERGREENS KEEP THEIR LEAVES. Her newest book is the recently released ABC, RISE UP AND BE!, illustrated by Sandie Sonke and published by Bushel & Peck Books!
To order any of her books, visit:
Now, let's learn a little about ABC, RISE UP AND BE! and what inspired Annemarie to sit down and write the first draft of it?
I wrote ABC, Rise Up and Be! in May 2020 when our country was going through a rough patch. I had the idea for an ABC book for a long time. I was a kindergarten and first-grade teacher for a good part of my career, and I had always thought about how cool it would be to read them my own ABC book someday. Fast forward to May of 2020. We were amid a pandemic, and things were a bit hectic. I thought to myself, I want to write a book for children that highlights the good values that people carry inside of them. Every parent wants their child to be a good person, so I took that idea, coupled it with letters of the alphabet, and drafted the ABC book.
After I finished it, I began to look for houses that might be a good fit. I started looking at houses that didn't have alphabet books on their lists and made a note of them so I could send mine. Shortly after, I found Bushel & Peck. I worked with its founder on two of my books when he worked for Familius, so I reached out with my idea, and he loved it. We tailored the text a bit, and the rest is history!
What was that process like? Any hiccups with getting the first draft done?
The first draft of the story wrote itself fairly quickly—less than one day. After I submitted it, David, the founder of Bushel & Peck, thought it might lean a bit didactic and asked if we could rework the text a bit and make it more lyrical. I rewrote the text, and then we began to think about the illustrations and the message we wanted the book to carry. David suggested that we include some influential people from history who exemplified the character traits listed in the book. I began to research people that fit the descriptions from each word and made a list for the illustrator. I then went back and added some historical information on them for some back matter, and that is how it came to fruition.
How did the manuscript change from that first draft to what it is today?
Some manuscripts are easier to write than others. This one took a bit longer than I expected. Taking my original idea and putting a lyrical spin on the words sounds a lot easier than it turned out to be! We were changing lines of text up until December of last year! All that hard work paid off, though, because this book is something, we are both very proud of!
Are you a pantser or a plotter? And how does that affect your drafting of a story?
This is a great question! I am for sure a panster. The idea for a book starts, and then I just dive in. I never know where it's going to take me. It's both a blessing and a curse. I don't get hung up on the details and stop mid-story. I power through to the end and then revisit the story later. Once I feel it is semi-decent, I ask my CPs for their thoughts. This is why having a group of critique partners is invaluable. They know my biggest weakness as a writer is a tight plot and their suggestions help me get my stories where they need to be.
Do you ever find yourself putting off drafting a story?
Absolutely! I work a full-time teaching job, and I’m a wife and mother of two. I really don't have a lot of time to write. I find my creativity is really stunted from Sep-June because my brain is so occupied with lesson planning, grading, sports, and all the other things that happen during the school year. I try to jot my ideas down in a notebook on my bedside or in my phone, so I can flesh them out when I have time to let my brain wander. I do squeeze time in nights, weekends, vacation weeks but mostly during summer when I am truly free of work obligations.
What is the hardest part of drafting a story for you? And how do you deal with that?
It's always the plot. I have no problems with beginnings or endings, which many writers struggle with; it's a tight plot for me. My plots always need a lot of tightening! I get by with help from my CPs, my agent, and from paid critiques.
What are your tips and tricks for getting that first draft committed to the page?
Jot your notes the minute you have them-even on your phone; take two seconds to get them written someplace so that you can refer back to them later. I can't stress that enough. Don't make the mistake of saying you'll do it later, or you'll remember your ideas because chances are you will find yourself in a bind. I've done that one too many times. Once your vision is down, find the time to write-even if it's ten minutes. Most of us don't have long stretches of time to sit down and write a complete book in one sitting, so get as much as you can when you can.
If you've got notes somewhere, pull them out now because #FirstDraftFriday has officially begun!
To enter for a chance at a free critique of a picture book manuscript (fiction of 1000 words or less; please no rhyme nor nonfiction) from Annemarie, you must do the following by 8 pm ET today (June 4, 2021):
Complete a full picture book draft
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 (unfortunately, this is how Wix works), 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.
Have fun drafting!