MCBB 8: Making the Writer's Dummy
"We Are Jellyfish" Picture Book Process
It’s a book, it’s a book! This stage is super exciting because it’s when a flat 2-d manuscript first becomes a little tiny book you can hold in your hands. How cool!
Last week, I took one final (for now) stab at refining the manuscript (See 6. Polishing the Manuscript in Might Could Beta Books), and then moved on to making my writer’s dummy. If you haven’t heard of a writer’s dummy, here’s how I describe it in MCBB:
“A dummy is a small mock-up book made from folded paper. Making a dummy with your manuscript helps you refine the pacing and see how you page turns work (or don’t). It gives you the experience of reading your story as a book—not a flat piece of paper or text on your screen. It also allows you to begin to see if you have too much text to fit in a picture book format.”
Basically, I did one more pass at revising and polishing the manuscript, and then quickly laid it out on a storyboard format (that template is also available in MCBB!). I tried to break up the text according to how I’d like it to be read, but I didn’t spend too much time getting the placement perfect because I know it will change once I start drawing. I also like doing this because I find it helpful to have an idea of how much text I need to leave room for before I begin drawing the illustrations.
As you might notice, I got overly excited last week talking about jumping into drawing storyboards! I’m just really excited to explore this artwork, but I strongly believe a book’s story is the most important thing, and I know I need to get the written story mostly finished before I get swept up in the fun of experimenting with the visual art. This is how my process works best, anyways. Everyone’s different, and I’m sure some other people begin by drawing!
You can see in the screenshot above of my book project in Might Could Beta Books what I’ve done and where I’m going next. I’m glad I had this project outline to remind myself to slow my horses and take my time!
So now I need to study how my dummy is working as a book. Perhaps the most vital thing about a picture book is how it sounds when read out loud. I took a video of myself reading the writer’s dummy for the first time out loud, so I could see (and revisit) how it sounds when read aloud. This shows me where a reader might stumble or get caught up in odd words or rhythms.
Now that I’ve finished 6. Polish the Manuscript, it’s time to move on to 7. Get Feedback. And this is where you come in!
Time for Your Help!
I’d be super grateful if you could take a few minutes to read my writer’s dummy out loud to yourself. I know you won’t get the full page-turning book experience of the actual dummy, but it will still be very helpful to hear your feedback on the book at this stage. Click the linked image below to see it bigger so you can read through it.
If you’d like to see the full step-by-step process of how to make your own writer’s dummy, that’s all in the Might Could Beta Books initiative that all paid subscribers have access to! If you’re not already a paid subscriber, you can upgrade here.
This week, I’ll be reading your comments/feedback and will be back next week with a special essay because it’s my Might Could anniversary and I always have lots of feels at this time of year! 🎉
Thank you so much for taking the time to read through my dummy book and give me your feedback! You can tell me your thoughts by commenting on this Substack post or replying directly to this email. Any and all comments are welcome, and thank you so, so much for your help! :)