Drafts

There have been well over 50 working drafts of this piece over the years. I will share 6 of these. You will see how this story has developed and changed over the course of these drafts. It took many rewrites to find the right formula to tell the story. It took this many rewrites to know the story and my characters well enough to tell a lot in just a few sentences. That’s the tricky part in writing picture books; how to say a lot without saying much at all. As the writer, I have to remind myself that this is a picture book for the 2-6 age range. Knowing this age group well as a Montessori preschool teacher, I know that the text needs to be short and sweet because a child of this age can’t sit there for very long. I also know that in terms of language development, their brains can’t handle too much information at one time.

I wish I knew what I know now back then when I first had the idea! Then again, had it not gone through all the rethinking and rewriting and learning of this whole process, I may not have the story that I have today.

Take a look.

The very first draft looked like this:

“A Little Bit Goes a Long Way”

Once upon a time there was a boy called Finn. Finn’s favorite drink was apple juice.
“Mom, can I pour it today?”
“OK, but remember a little bit goes a long way.”
Finn filled it over the top of the cup
And Mom, in a gruff, had to clean it up with a mop.

After cleaning up the mess in the kitchen, Mom went outside to her garden.
“Mom, can I water your flowers so they’ll be pretty in May?”
“Sure, but remember a little bit goes a long way.”
Finn flooded the entire flower bed,

And sadly, Mom’s flowers would soon be dead.

Finn went inside the house to find his Dad. He was about to feed the pet fish named Sinbad.
“Oh, Oh Dad, can I feed the fish today?”
“OK son, but remember a little bit goes a long way.”
Sinbad choked on all his feed
And Finn felt bad his fish was soon fast asleep.

Finn went into the kitchen again. His Mom set up the paint for Finn to use.
“Mom, can I color in this picture with some of this paint?”
“Yes, but remember Finn, a little goes a long way!”
Finn used up all the paint.
It went all over the place.
Another mess Mom had to clean up, she wasn’t happy. She was quite cross.

Finn, in sorrow, went up to his room.
He felt bad about his fish, the juice, the paint and the flowers that won’t bloom.

Mom and Dad knew he was feeling sad, so they went up to his room to make him feel glad.

“Knock Knock dear Finn, don’t feel so faint.”
“But I made a mess with the juice, the flower water, the fish feed and the paint.”
“It’s OK dear Finn, don’t feel so blue. Just make sure you are careful with everything you do.”

Finn still felt bad, he didn’t know what to do.
So Mom gave him a kiss on the head and said, ‘I love you.’
Finn looked up and didn’t know what to say.

A little bit of love goes a long way.

It’s always fun looking back at the very first draft of this piece because it has come so far. I’ve learned so much about the rewriting process, my characters, and my story. It’s probably obvious as to why this version didn’t exactly hit the shelves after its first submission. The idea is there and in fact, the story hasn’t really changed all that much from then to now. However, there are a few reasons this version does not scream ‘publish me!’ Firstly, the rhyming is all over the place. The number of stressed and non-stressed syllables doesn’t work and the meter is not even. The beats don’t add up on each line either, making the flow of the read very choppy and stagnant. Second, there is not really a pattern to follow. In poetry, you write in a format be it in ABA or ABAB, etc…This is just all over the place. Thirdly, some of the words I’m trying to rhyme with are only half rhymes or don’t really rhyme at all. For example: “over the top of the cup….had to clean it up with a mop…” Lastly, it may be worthwhile rethinking the content of the story. There are 4 main scenarios that Finn goes through and one seems to stand out to me: the fish. This is a children’s story and we’re murdering the pet fish?? Mom’s flowers will soon be dead??? That may be a little too morbid if you ask me, as the teacher. As the writer, I also need to think about who this Finn character really is. What exactly does he learn? There doesn’t really seem to be any real arc in his character development. He is just told to be more careful and then feels bad about it. He doesn’t actually learn that a little goes a long way.

So…after much thought I came up with DRAFT 2:

“A Little Bit Goes a Long Way”

 Once upon a time there was a boy called Bruce.

Bruce’s favorite drink was apple juice.

 

“Mom, can I pour it in my glass today?”

“OK but remember a little bit goes a long way.”

 

Bruce filled it over the top of the cup

And Mom, in a gruff, had to clean it all up.

 

After cleaning up the spill that took nearly a half hour,

Mom went outside to water her flowers.

 

“Mom, can I water your flowers so they’ll be pretty in May?”

“Sure, but remember a little bit goes a long way.”

 

Bruce flooded the entire flower bed

And sadly Mom’s flowers wouldn’t bloom, they would wilt instead.

 

Bruce went inside to help Dad with the laundry.

He wanted to help out and not be so naughty.

 

“Oh Dad, can I pour in the soap today?”

“Ok, but remember, a little bit goes a long way!”

 

Bruce filled the washing machine full of soap suds

And before the last spin cycle, the floor was a flood!

 

Bruce went into the kitchen again.

He wanted to paint Mom a picture of a hen.

 

“Mom can I color you a picture with some of this paint?”

“Of course, but remember Bruce, a little goes a long way!”

 

Bruce used up all the paint.

And this time, it went all over the place.

 

Another mess Mom had to clean up,

she wasn’t happy, she was quite cross.

 

Bruce, in sorrow, went up to his room,

He felt bad about the laundry, the juice, the paint and the flowers that won’t bloom.

 

Mom and Dad knew he was feeling sad,

so they went up to his room to make him feel glad.

 

“Knock, knock dear Bruce, don’t feel so faint.”

“But I made a mess with the juice, the flower water, the laundry and the paint.”

 

“It’s OK dear Bruce, don’t feel so blue.

Just make sure you are careful with everything you do.”

 

Bruce still felt bad, he didn’t know what to do.

So mom gave him a kiss on the head and said, “I love you.”

 

Bruce looked up and didn’t know what to say.

A little bit of love goes a long way.

So…Finn’s name changed to ‘Bruce!’ Why? I needed it to rhyme with ‘juice.’  There isn’t much to it other than that. Although there is much improvement to the wording in terms of each couplet rhyming, there are still too many beats throughout the piece. This is the version I submitted to be read by a panel of published children’s authors and some of the feedback included the following:

“Good, cute story – does it have to rhyme?”

“Can Bruce show love first and make parents happy after all the incidents where they are mad – so that he solves his own problem?”

“Maybe have 3 escalating scenarios that lead to disaster?”

“Scan every line to make sure meter is even. Try writing without rhyming first”

Okay, so now I have a lot to think about…this is good! Not only do I have somewhat positive feedback from some pretty accomplished writers, but I have some great suggestions too. At this point I rewrite the story – without rhyming. This is what I came up with:

DRAFT 3

“A Little Goes a Long Way”

This is Bruce.
He used to not be so careful with things.
When Bruce wanted to help Mom pour the juice into his cup, Mom would always say “a little juice goes a long way.”

Bruce poured too much. He made such a mess.

When Bruce wanted to help Dad with the laundry, Dad would always say “a little soap goes a long way.”

Bruce put too much soap in the washing machine and flooded the entire laundry room with soap suds. Dad made a big fuss.

When Bruce wanted to help water Mom’s flowers, she’d say “a little water goes a long way!”

But Bruce still used too much. He over watered the flowers. Poor Mom’s flowers wouldn’t bloom. Mom was in such distress.

Bruce felt bad about the juice, pouring too much soap in the washing machine and using too much water for Mom’s flowers, all because he wasn’t being careful.

So Bruce learned to use only what he needed.

When Bruce painted Mom a picture, he’d say “a little paint goes a long way!” No mess.

When Bruce needed to use glue for his model airplane, he’d say “a little glue goes a long way!” No fuss.

When Bruce wanted to feed his pet fish, he’d say “a little fish food goes a long way!” No distress.

Mom and Dad were proud of Bruce learning to be more careful. They gave him a big hug and said ‘we love you Bruce.’

Bruce smiled. A little bit of love goes a long way.

So, at this point I feel I have a winning draft. There have been some huge improvements! Bruce learns the lesson and accomplishes his goal of learning ‘a little goes a long way.’ I used several different relatable scenarios to illustrate the whole concept. I play with the line ‘a little goes a long way’ as a catch phrase. Children love to be able to predict the language while following the story. There is definitely more of a character arc to this version and I like the simplicity. However, there are still a number of reasons this version did not make the cut either…Even though the illustrations will exaggerate the scenarios, we don’t really know that he is learning the hard way and what actually motivates him to be more careful. There are a few fragmented sentences. Also, it’s a little short in terms of the text. This is the version I sent on to Kevin at Paper Farms and he asked me for a non-rhyming version. He had a few suggestions but mostly wondered if I could make it a little bit longer. I also had my family and friends give me their input. This is what I came up with:

DRAFT 4

“A Little Goes a Long Way”

This is Bruce.
Bruce lives with his Mom and Dad and his little dog named Odie. 

Bruce used to not be so careful with things.

When Bruce wanted to help Mom pour the juice into his cup, Mom would always say “a little juice goes a long way.”

Bruce poured out the juice.
He poured and poured and poured.
He made such a mess.

When Bruce wanted to help Dad with the laundry, Dad would always say “a little soap goes a long way.”

Bruce poured out the laundry soap.
He poured and poured and poured.
Bruce poured too much soap in the washing machine and flooded the entire laundry room with soap suds. Dad made a big fuss.

When Bruce wanted to help water Mom’s flowers, she’d say “a little water goes a long way!”

Bruce poured water on Mom’s flowers.
He poured and poured and poured.
But Bruce still used too much. He over watered the flowers. Poor Mom’s flowers wouldn’t bloom. Mom was in such distress.

Bruce felt bad about the juice, pouring too much soap in the washing machine and using too much water for Mom’s flowers, all because he wasn’t being careful.

So Bruce learned to use only what he needed.

When Bruce poured his own juice, he remembered to say ‘a little juice goes a long way!’ No Mess.

When Bruce helped Dad with the laundry, he remembered to say ‘a little soap goes a long way!’ No fuss.

When Bruce wanted to water Mom’s flowers, he would always say ‘a little water goes a long way!” No distress.

Mom and Dad were so proud of Bruce learning to be more careful. They gave him a big hug and said ‘we love you Bruce.’

Bruce smiled.

A little love goes a long way.

So…my first big improvement is the working of the scenarios. He’s going back to the same three scenarios to show he has learned to be more careful when doing those specific tasks.  I’m not too sure about the juice being a working scenario though…Pouring juice isn’t exactly a chore. Maybe I need to be specific about the tasks Bruce is taking on….Another point I’d like to make is that he’s always pouring. This whole concept of ‘a little goes a long way’ needs to be illustrated in other ways too. I’ve also introduced his dog because I would like the dog to be hidden in every picture. Children love finding objects in the pictures. It opens up conversation and understanding recognition. Keep reading. We’re getting closer and closer to a final working draft. Notice throughout the next two drafts that I share, the illustrations are in the text so you get a better view of how I’m envisioning this whole thing. This is the format I have to have it in when submitting it to the publisher who will then pass it onto the artist of his liking. Describing the illustrations, which are italicized, are very helpful to the artist when it gets to that point in the illustrating process.

DRAFT 5
A Little Goes a Long Way

Written by Ashley Mills Monaghan

 This is Fin.

(Fin waving to reader in front of his house)

 Fin lives with his Mom, Dad, Granny and his little dog, Sausages. They all love Fin very much.

(a little boy with Sausages, his brown wiener dog with a long, pointy snout and round nose. They are standing or playing in the foyer of his house. A family portrait is in the background hanging on the wall)

 Fin likes to help with the chores around the house, but he needs to learn to be more careful.

(Mom and Dad busy in the kitchen, putting groceries away. Fin lifting a bag of dog food and it spilling)

 If Fin helped Mom scoop out the dog food for Sausages, she would say “a little dog food goes a long way.”

 (Mom with a bag of dog food by the dog bowl in one side of the kitchen. Fin with a metal scoop in hand ready to help. Sausages wagging his tail watching on, waiting for his food.)

(same spread: Mom’s expression is calm, pointing finger as she gives direction)

 Fin scooped and scooped and scooped. (*play with text)

(Fin scooping out dog food, looking to one side and not paying attention.)

 (Dog bowl filling up and spilling over. Sausages with big, happy eyes.)

 Fin scooped so much, Sausages suffered a stomach ache.

((exaggeration) (Dog food EVERYWHERE.  Mom looking on, with an ‘oh no!’ face, Fin looking somewhat surprised at the big mess he had just made, Sausages sick from eating too much, fat belly.)

 If Fin helped Dad pour in the laundry soap, he would say “a little soap goes a long way.”

(Dad in laundry room, putting clothes in the washing machine from a laundry basket. Sausages looking on. Fin entering room with the soap in hand)

(same spread: Dad giving direction)

 Fin poured and poured and poured. (*play with text)

(Fin pouring soap into washing machine, Dad behind him watching on. Sausages in a laundry basket somewhere covered in clothes. Bubbles are emerging from the washing machine and Fin’s face is covered in excitement)

Fin poured so much soap, a surge of suds soaked the laundry room.

(laundry room is completely covered in bubbles and bubbles of soap suds. Fin is covered in suds and Sausages is somewhere in the mess. Dad, at the edge of all the bubbles in the laundry room is upset, his glasses are in one hand and his other is at his forehead, shaking his head in disbelief)

 If Fin helped Granny spray water on her flowers, she would say “a little water goes a long way.”

 (Granny is busy tending to her flowers and Fin is ready to water the flowers, hose in hand.)

(Granny is lovingly giving advice. Mom is in the background and her expression is worrisome)

 Fin sprayed and sprayed and sprayed. (*play with text)

Fin spraying water from the hose. The hose starts to go out of control from the huge gush of water (same spread, water is getting everywhere)

 Fin sprayed so much water, the sunflowers and sweet peas were soiled.

 Fin looked around. The house was a mess. The yard was a mess. Everyone was upset.

 ( – Water dripping everywhere, sunflowers are wilted. Fin is wet and Sausages is dripping wet, a little bit aggravated. Granny is a bit worried, Dad is in the background, with his hand to his forehead, and Mom is very annoyed at this point, almost red in the face; mad. Fin is starting to realize that he needs to be more careful. )

 “Thank you for helping out today, just remember a little goes a long way.”

(Mom, Dad and Granny are standing in the flood of water in the garden; bubbles are in the background in the laundry room of the house, Sausages still eating dog food. They are explaining why he needs to be more careful as all three scenarios are exaggerated in the scene in the background, as if to say no more helping out. They all look disheveled)

 (PICTURE ONLY)

 (Fin sitting on his bed in his room, reflecting on his day. Sausages is by his side)

 (pop up bubbles of day’s events over Fin’s head as he is remembering all the messes he created)

 Now Fin is more careful when helping out.

When Fin helps Mom feed Sausages, he remembers to say “a little goes a long way!”

(Fin with the heavy bag of dog food, ready with the scoop in hand. Sausages wagging his tail,

Mom watching in the background)

Scoop, scoop … (*play with text/font)

(Fin scooping the dog food, carefully)

 … STOP ! (*play with text/font)

 (Dog bowl filled, Fin happy in his accomplishment, Mom satisfied in the background. Sausages is busy eating happily)

 When Fin helps Dad with the laundry, he remembers to say “a little goes a long way!”

(Fin pouring the soap in a measuring cup, Dad folding laundry in the background looking on..Sausages in a laundry basket)

Pour, pour… (*play with text/font)

(Fin pouring the soap in)

 … STOP! (*play with text/font)

(Dad giving Fin a thumbs up and Fin smiling. Sausages peeping out of the dryer)

 And when Fin helps Granny in the garden, he remembers to say “a little goes a long way!”

(Granny handing hose to Fin, Sausages in a bush)

Spray, spray … (*play with text/font)

(Fin spraying water onto the flowers, carefully. Mom looking on, Sausages afraid he’ll get wet, prepares with an umbrella)

 …STOP! (*play with text/font)

(Flowers in full bloom, Mom satisfied, Sausages surprised he doesn’t need umbrella, Fin delighted in himself)

 Mom and Dad were proud of Fin learning to be more careful. They gave him a big kiss and said, “We love you.” Fin didn’t know what to say…

(Mom, Dad and Granny hugging Fin with the house in order. Sausages food bowl is filled, the clothes are folded and Mom’s garden is growing)

 A little love goes a long way.

I’m getting closer and closer to a final working draft. I decided to change the name back to Fin because I didn’t have a connection to the name Bruce. I didn’t need it anyhow since I didn’t need it to rhyme with ‘juice.’ We’re sticking to the non-rhyming version. I decided on using Fin (with one ‘n’) because my son’s middle name is Finegan (spelled with one ‘n’). It’s a much cuter name for a children’s book character and it has some special meaning to me.

Draft 5 is much stronger of a story because it’s getting more and more visual. There is a full arc in the story; a beginning, middle and an end. Picture books don’t need much text to describe any three of these parts; that’s what makes it so freaking tough. There is no need for a descriptive exposition. You don’t need to describe what the drapes look like in his living room or explain how exactly he gets from point A to point B. You just need to know what the main character wants out of the story (his goal) and get to the point in very few words. You don’t need a ton of narrative because the pictures will tell a lot about every character and about the story as it unfolds. The pictures show you the detail. It sounds so simple, but sometimes the simplest things are the toughest things to do right.

The other thing to keep in mind when rewriting is envisioning how the pages will turn. You don’t want the flow to be interrupted by page turning at the wrong point. Keeping this in mind, Kevin wanted it to go even further and let the pictures tell more of the story and so…the next draft is our final working draft that I will share. It may change yet, but from where it was to where it is now, I think you will agree that it has developed into a much smarter, simpler story. Check it out:

FINAL (for now) DRAFT:

A Little Goes a Long Way
Written by Ashley Mills Monaghan

This is Fin and his little dog, Sausages.
(Fin is a little boy who is about 5 years old. He is waving to the reader in front of his house with his dog, Sausages. Sausages is Fin’s brown wiener dog. Sausages has a long snout and a round nose.)

Fin can be quite messy.
 (Fin is painting a picture in his room. There is paint everywhere, his room a total mess; too much glue on the table next to him from another project. His hair is a mess too. Mom is in the background, cleaning up after him with a tired look on her face. She is giving out to Fin for the mess. The bathroom is in the background. Too much toilet paper has been used and is on the ground from the toilet roll)

He likes to help with the chores around the house, but he needs to learn to be more careful.
(Mom and Dad busy in the kitchen, putting groceries away. Fin lifting a bag of dog food and it spilling)

One day, Fin helped Mom feed Sausages.
He scooped and scooped…
(Kitchen: Fin is scooping dog food with a big silver scoop, Sausages is waiting with anticipation. Mom is in the background watching on)

… and scooped.

“Fin, a little goes a long way!” (dialogue bubble; Mom)
(Dog food is everywhere; big exaggeration.  Mom is looking on, with an ‘oh no!’ face, Fin looking somewhat surprised at the big mess he had just made, Sausages sick from eating too much. He is holding his big, fat belly. Fin still holding the scoop with food falling off of it. Mom is upset.)

Fin helped Dad with the laundry.
He poured and poured….
(Laundry Room: Fin is pouring soap into the washing machine and Dad is behind him watching on. Sausages is in a laundry basket somewhere covered in clothes. Bubbles are emerging from the washing machine and Fin’s face is covered in excitement)

…and poured.

“Fin, a little goes a long way!” (dialogue bubble; Dad and Mom)
(The laundry room is completely covered in bubbles and soapsuds. Fin is covered in suds and Sausages’ tail is poking out in the mess of bubbles. Dad, at the edge of all the bubbles in the laundry room, is upset. His glasses are in one hand and his other hand is at his forehead, shaking his head in disbelief)

Fin helped Granny cook dinner.
He sprinkled and sprinkled…
(Kitchen: Fin is on a step stool with a carton labeled ‘SALT.’ He is sprinkling in the salt over a pot of steam. Granny is in the background watching over Fin, chopping veggies..Sausages is in the bread box or somewhere in the picture)

…and sprinkled.

“Fin, a little goes a long way!” (dialogue bubble; Granny, Dad and Mom)
(Fin pouring in all the salt into the pot, not really paying attention. There is an empty salt bottle.. Mom, Dad, Granny and Sausages are in the background catching him in the act as to say ‘noooo!! Sausages is covered in a pile of salt by the cooker, spilled from Fin as he was pouring salt into the pot. Granny is tasting out of a spoon over the pot and face is disgusted)

Fin helped Grandpa in the garden.
He sprayed and sprayed…
(Backyard Garden: Fin spraying water on the flowers in the garden with a hose in hand, looking back at Grandpa who is in the background tending to his plants)

…and sprayed!

 “Fin — a little goes a long way!” (big dialogue bubble of Mom, Dad, Granny, Grandpa and even Sausages)

(The garden is getting soaked; water is everywhere.. Fin has the hose in hand, water pressure is so hard, the hose is out of control. Everyone is soaking wet, shouting at Fin to stop! Big exaggeration..)

Fin looked around.
Everyone was upset.
(Water is dripping everywhere, the sunflowers are wilted. Fin is wet and Sausages is dripping wet, a bit aggravated. Granny and grandpa are a bit worried, Dad is in the background, with his hand to his forehead, and Mom is very annoyed at this point, almost red in the face; mad. Fin is starting to realize that he needs to be more careful. )

 “Thank you for helping out today. Just remember a little goes a long way.”
(Mom, Dad and Granny and Grandpa are standing in the flood of water in the garden; bubbles are in the background in the laundry room of the house, Sausages still eating dog food. They are explaining why he needs to be more careful as all four scenarios are exaggerated in the scene in the background, as if to say no more helping out. They all look disheveled)

 (PICTURE ONLY)
(Fin sitting on his bed in his room, reflecting on his day. Sausages is by his side. There are pop up bubbles of the day’s events over Fin’s head as he is remembering all the messes he created)

Now Fin is more careful when helping out.
(A new day; Fin with the heavy bag of dog food, ready with the scoop in hand. Sausages wagging his tail, Mom watching in the background)

Scoop, scoop …
(Kitchen: Fin scooping the dog food, carefully)

 … STOP!
(Dog bowl is filled, Fin is happy in his accomplishment, Mom satisfied in the background. Sausages is busy eating happily)

 Pour, pour…
(Laundry Room: Fin pouring the soap into the washing machine, Fin is using a measuring cup, Dad folding laundry in the background looking on..Sausages in a laundry basket or hiding in the dryer)

 … STOP!
(Dad giving Fin a thumbs up and Fin smiling. Sausages peeping out of the dryer)

Sprinkle, Sprinkle…
(Kitchen: Sprinkling salt delicately, Mom looking on, Sausages hidden in a pot somewhere)

 …STOP!
(Dinner Table: everyone delighted that dinner tastes so good. A dialogue bubble over Dad or Mom saying “mmm this is tasty.”)

Spray, spray …
(Backyard: Fin spraying water onto the flowers, carefully. Mom looking on, Sausages afraid he’ll get wet, prepares with an umbrella, Grandpa watching on)

…STOP!
(Flowers are in full bloom, Mom and Grandpa satisfied, Sausages surprised he doesn’t need umbrella, Fin delighted in himself)

 Everyone was proud of Fin learning to be more careful. They gave him a big kiss and said, “We love you.” Fin didn’t know what to say…
(Mom, Dad and Granny and grandpa hugging Fin with the house in order. Sausages food bowl is filled, the clothes are folded and Mom’s garden is growing, something cooking on the stove, maybe Sausages is smelling it)

 …A little love goes a long way.
(Fin with a big smile on his face, giving thumbs up.)

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