The journey of my first picture book

The journey of my first picture book

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting ‘The Dreamy bus’ to be my first picture book. I started to work on this book without even knowing. What does that even mean?

Let me tell you how it all started…

After I graduated I found a new day job at a local app development company as a graphic designer and illustrator. Even if the job was local, it took me more than an hour of bus journey to get to work and another hour of bus to get back. I felt like I was wasting time that I could spend doing something more valuable… So I had an idea. What if I used the time on the bus to practice? I gave myself an art challenge, #thedreamybus. This challenge involved taking a picture of the bus after getting on and then drawing on top of it. Here’s an example –

After a few weeks, I collected quite a few illustrations and I was really satisfied with the results. Creating characters from scratch with the challenge of fitting them into an existing real environment was fun! Suddenly, I had an idea. What if I wrote a story around the characters I created? I know, the standard picture book creation process starts from writing the story first. But what if for once I tried to start the process from the illustrations? I love challenges, so I had to try it. If the process didn’t work, I could always call it an experiment and say that I had fun.

The book is almost published, so the experiment went well!

Now, I’d expect you to question – how did you manage to connect random characters all together to make a story that makes sense? Well, I’ll show you. I have to give a big thanks to the picture book ‘Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus‘ by Mo Willems as it inspired how I decided to write my story.

Similarly to how the pigeon talks to the reader, I decided to introduce a main character that would talk to the reader to keep them interested in what happens in the next pages. However, I decided to write the thoughts and responses of the reader too, rather than keeping only the main character talking. Here’s a couple of spreads to show you what I mean!

The book starts with the main character, a child not shown in the book, finding an egg on his/her bus to school (yes, I transformed my local bus to work into a magical school bus). Once the egg hatches, a creature similar to a cat comes out and becomes friend with the protagonist. Since he/she meets Puffcat, his/her journey to school by bus becomes really exciting and everyday they meet unusual animals taking the bus with them! I won’t spoil the end of the book 🙂

How did I write the story?

I wrote this story about twenty times before getting to a point where I was happy of the direction it was taking. Once I was satisfied with the approach I took, I contacted my amazing editor and we worked together to polish the story, make the days flow better and check the grammar (English is not my first language, so I always need another few pairs of eyes when I write!). If you are writing a story too, MAKE SURE YOU DON’T SKIP THE EDITING PROCESS! It is super important to get your story read by someone else so you can gather feedback, make it better and get the best out of your work. I also asked my work colleagues to read the story and they were extremely helpful. If someone told you that you can edit your book yourself… do not trust them! What might make sense to you, might not do to someone else, especially if for example they come from a different culture and they see another meaning in what you wrote. Also remember, children are very clever. If something doesn’t feel quite right in your story, they will notice and it will interfere with the mood you created with your story. I am not a PRO writer (yet), but with my stories I always make sure to take my time to make them work as best as I can.

Puffcat character design

The story is ready. Now what?

After writing a story, the next step would be illustrating it, however in this case my illustrations were almost all ready… ‘Almost’ because I decided to add some extra illustrations, edit some and make some other minor changes. I always find things that I can improve, I could potentially spend years on a book. This book in total didn’t take too long, probably around 4 months and considering I work full time, I am really proud of what I managed to achieve in such a short time!

Once all the illustrations were ready, it was time to format my book. Luckily, I started studying graphic design when I was 15 and it is my full time job so I didn’t have to hire someone else to format my book. Creating a book takes much more time when you are the writer, the illustrator and the designer, however once you have the book in your hands it’s really worth it! Thinking that all your work has lead to what you have in your hands it’s such an incredible feeling.

The book is done.

Now it comes the ‘not so fun part’ for a creative. Well, it comes before starting to make a book, however I’ll explain it here.

RESEARCH. The perfect printer for you book, buy an ISBN, where to publish (if using Amazon KDP or another platform), setting up your business, explore your marketing options… I could make about 20 more blog posts to explain each part, so I am not going to discuss each of the steps of publishing here!

The Dreamy Bus‘ was such an exciting project and I cannot wait to its publishing date! By the way, I will be doing a FREE eBook offer for the launch date (25th of May) so if you’d like to read the story, keep an eye on Amazon! I really hope you will enjoy my book and I cannot wait to share more exciting projects with you 🙂

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