Never Ever Give Up! by Cath Jones

When is it time to give up on a story? This question is often asked by aspiring picture book authors and my answer is simple: never. I think you’ll see why after I tell you about a slug.

image jgrrz PIxabay

Back in 2012, I was part of an online SCBWI critique group. It was then that I wrote ‘Slug in Love’. The central character was a lovable, optimistic slug, a glass half full kinda Slug. 

The story went down well; everyone loved the first half. Reaction to the ending however, was mixed. I do have a tendency towards black humour (Not Now Bernard is my all time favourite picture book) but not everyone appreciates this! 

After months of rewriting, in 2013 I shared it with another critique group. I really liked my rather yucky, slightly shocking ending; similar in style to The Italian Job. But once again, opinion was divided. 

I set to work on yet more rewrites; I created so many different versions! A human character became a bear and then a human again. But nothing seemed quite right. Finally, I set the story aside and moved on.

Three years later I had my first stories accepted for publication. Dozens of books followed, published by a number of different publishers. Occasionally I thought of Slug.

Then, in July 2019, I had the opportunity to submit to an editorial meeting. I opened up my WIP folder. There were lots of texts to choose from! Slug in Love stood out. I knew the text wasn’t quite right but heh, it definitely wouldn’t get published languishing in a file on my computer.

A few days later, I received an email from the editor:

“The idea is really fun, and the way it’s written is hilarious, but we do feel the ending is a bit bleak and would need to be changed.”

It was the same old story, the ending! But at least an editor was interested. I spent months rewriting it, added Spider, a sidekick for Slug and finally did away with my grisly ending. October 2019, I submitted a revised text.

The editor emailed:

“ did have us all laughing out loud!” but the ending still needed revising.

In the following months, I rewrote it again and again. Then the pandemic struck and everyone started meeting on ZOOM. 

A geographically scattered group of writing friends started meeting on online. Dorset based Lizzie Bryant, a storyteller and former film editor and producer read Slug in Love. She is a master of story and helped me understand my own story:

the central theme is the impossible friendship between Slug and a gardener and this needs to be resolved! 

image Harriet P from Pixabay

Sounds simple? It was a revelation! I started thinking about Slug in Love in a whole new way. For the first time, after seven years of living with this story, I truly grasped the essence of it. Immediately, I knew why it wasn’t working. Out went my funny but still not very happy, ending. More months slipped by as I pondered how to make it work.

February 2021, I was out taking my daily pandemic lockdown walk, picking up litter and thinking story when BAM, I started talking excitedly about THE BUCKET OF DOOM. I was on the way to new ending!

I rewrote the second half of the text and emailed my very patient editor. The reply?

“Yay! You’ve cracked it!”

So I wrote Slug in Love in 2012 and it was accepted in 2021! The title has changed, I have lost count of the number of rewrites and bleak endings have been banished. This picture book journey, from first idea to signing the publisher contract makes one thing abundantly clear: 


Cath Jones

Cath is the author of dozens of early readers, junior and middle grade fiction and a quirky picture book. She’s passionate about diversity and strong female characters. She’s particularly proud of The Best Wedding Gift, a story featuring a child with two mums. Her life is dominated by vegetable growing, picking up litter and swimming in the sea. Cath lives in Kent with her wife and a spoilt rescue cat. Chat with her on Twitter: @cathjoneswriter

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