Hot Tips Put Into Action!

I want to quickly pass on a couple of great tips I picked up at the wonderful SCBWI conference over the weekend (and take the chance to show you a couple of the sketches I did on my way there).

The first tip comes from
Tim Hopgood, another picture book illustrator / author, who I first met at the Northern Children's Book Festival earlier in the week.

We were at the same hotel for 3 days, so had dinner together each night, along with other folks like David Bedford, Joan Lennon and Alan Durant. That's one of the lovely things about the NCBF: you catch up with people you've not seen in ages and keep adding new friends each year.

Tim and I got on like a house on fire, so I was especially pleased to run into him a few days later at the conference. He was giving a talk on how his book ideas evolve.

He's an understated, but very funny guy, and the talk was really interesting. We all did lots of giggling and one of many things that amused us was when Tim shared a bit of his working practice: every day, before he starts work, he turns up the music good and loud, and spends a whole hour dancing around the studio, all by himself! This is an illustration from his gorgeous book
Here Comes Frankie!, that seems rather apt...

So anyway, yesterday, after I had waded through my back e-mails for the week I've been away, I decided to try it. I couldn't afford an hour, as it was already about 11 o'clock, but I jumped and bopped for a good 10 minutes, and found that Tim's right: it's really good for clearing your head.

Out of breath and slightly sweaty (must get more exercise...) I starting in on the re-planning I need to do for a text that's been buzzing around for a while. Gullane are showing initial signs of interest, but are right that the idea needs some re-thinking.

I also tried out a new, 'big-paper-ideas-map' technique that I picked up at the conference from
Marcus Sedgwick. It's a way of tugging as many relevant thoughts from your head as possible and then marshalling them into some semblance of order. I usually just sit at the computer and write, so this is a new method and, so far, it does seem to help.

Thanks Marcus! Thanks Tim!


  1. ooh i couldn't possibly do the dancey thing. my office hasn't got curtains and is viewed by all the neighbours. must get those curtains! brilliant post! brilliant sketches!

  2. One of my ways I use to refine and distil projects sounds just like the big paper idea.

    Over time when working on a project I accumulate ideas, sketches, doodles, sentence parts, attempts at character development jotted down on anything - envelopes, sketchbooks, jotters, napkins - whatever is at hand when the mood takes me or the ideas strike.

    Needless to say it ends up all a bit disjointed, far too much, all over the place and of variable quality to say the least.

    This is where the big page pulls it together (when I feel I have enough of an accumulation). A big A3 or A2 page spread on the floor where I transfer the best of what I've done onto the page by hand. Redrawing and writing on the one single page as I go bringing to bear quality control, focus and order.

    The big page makes all the difference as you can see everything of consequence all at once and feel in control as you begin to refine and edit what was once wonderfully creative chaos. The big page remains a mildly chaotic process for me but it is the beginning of order.

    Drawing is very much part of this too and is where the visual composition of the comic or book begins to evolve.

    Working on a computer at this stage would be like squinting through a goldfish bowl at a page while trying to control the pencil with fire tongs and mitts.


We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.