Paper, pencils and picture book ideas by Jane Clarke

Chitra recently contributed a great step by step post How to edit picture book texts without cutting trees and I intend to try her method the next time I attempt to put a picture book text into pages. But when I'm working on a new idea, it never starts off on the computer. I'm not advocating the destruction of forests, but at the outset, paper, pencils and picture book ideas go together for me.

  •  Working this way is an excuse to buy notebooks. And pencils. And stuff like sticky notes. Even if the ideas in them get outdated, the notebooks don't become obsolete and are easy to access.

 I have LOTs of notebooks filled full of half-baked ideas. I’m not that fussy about notebooks. Some caught my eye, but I’ve been through a lot of cheap spiral bound notebooks. The posh Moleskine one was a gift. 

  • Working with paper and pencil feels free-er and more creative than screen and keyboard. There’s something just too neat and tidy and regimented about computer text.

Mind map of what became Firefly Home. Messy handwriting with lots of crossing out happens in my notebooks. 

  • Paper and pencil slows me down and grounds me. There are not so many distractions - no clicking of tabs and going off down ‘research’ rabbit holes or checking out social media. 

 Squirrel! moments on the computer are lots of fun, but make it hard to concentrate on one idea at a time. 

  • Paper and pencil makes me feel more relaxed and under less pressure to ‘perform.’ Very few editors are interested in seeing scribbles. It’s only when I’ve tidied up a text on the computer that I dare to send it off.

Tidy text of Tiptoe Tiger

If a picture book text is taken by an editor, all future work on it will be on the computer - electronic versions will whiz back and forth by email. Which brings me to my final point in favour of paper, pencils and picture book ideas:

  • When I spill my cup of tea over paper and pencil work, it’s not nearly as traumatic as upsetting one over the keyboard :-)

Jane’s latest picture book is Tiptoe Tiger, gloriously illustrated by Britta Teckentrup, and published by Nosy Crow.


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