Writing: an audience of one

I started this blog with quite a few things in mind.  I wanted somewhere to write about the amazing books I was discovering; a reading log so I could easily jog my memory if I forgot a book or a character or, even worse, whether I liked a book or not.

There was also – I must admit – a hint of vanity. I wondered whether there would be an audience, other people who might be interested in reading my bookish thoughts. Perhaps I would be able to point readers to an undiscovered book.  Fingers crossed, they may even say they liked what they read.

That said, my blog is my blog – it’s mainly for me.  I like to write.  I have an urge to do so, an itch that needs a regular scratch.  A blog post every few days keeps everything in sync – I get to write, but I also manage to keep the day job ticking over, not entirely neglect the children and occasionally empty the dishwasher.  But there is another strand to my humble blog.

A few years ago, when my eldest was still in nappies, I wrote a story for her called Little Mo.  We were reading and finding out about lots of picture books – Martin Waddell’s were a real favourite.  Not just Owl Babies, but John Joe and the Big Hen, Tom Rabbit and Sailor Bear.  We worked through them all and they inspired me to write my own, very much in Waddell’s style.

What struck me most in Waddell’s book is how a moment of high drama appears in what is otherwise a gentle, sweet story (in Owl Babies, for example, remember the moment when mother is gone!).  I tried to do the same in my story.  We also read Julia Donaldson in spades and I mimicked her rhyming couplet style.  I stole ideas, like writers do.

Where I went wrong – and this is probably a classic mistake for a first-time picture book writer – was the lack of thought I gave to the images; the pictures came second.  I think in words, I gather my thoughts by writing them down.  But the best picture books – the really, really good ones – mould the words and pictures so they work as one, leading the reader through the narrative, like a pair of dancers moving together.  Next time, the pictures will be clearer in my head, sketched out beforehand – the words will come later.

So, where have I got to?  It has been written and re-written and spoken a thousand times or more.  The words are all but done.  A friend, a very talented illustrator, is making sense of it all and is finishing the pictures as we speak.  I’m on my way – right now – to go through the final proofs with her.  My hopes for the book are humble – for me, it’s a memory of a time my daughter was little.  And I will be a very happy writer if she alone reads it and likes it; my audience of one.

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