Salina Yoon is an award-winning and bestselling author/illustrator of over 160 books for children, including her popular picture book series with the adventurous Penguin and the lovable Bear. Other titles include Be a Friend, and Duck, Duck, Porcupine!, the first book of a brand new early reader series. Learn more about Salina and her books at salinayoon.com. Also, enter to win a signed a copy of Duck, Duck, Porcupine! (a book that made me laugh out loud), which just pubbed last week!
Salina’s interview follows the Rafflecopter forms/entry links for the signed copy of Duck, Duck, Porcupine! and today’s Free Partial Edit Giveaway. Scroll down for her full interview.
For your books, you’re both author and illustrator. Do your stories start their development as words or pictures? Stories begin for me with an idea or a concept. Once I feel like there’s an idea to explore, I come up with a specific character that would best execute this idea. When the character is imagined, it helps to develop the story with more authenticity.
How many drafts does it typically take before you feel confident about the character and story choices you made? Usually, it’s around the third draft of storyboarding (sketches and text) where I feel like it’s either there or it isn’t. That doesn’t sound like much, but most drafts are being thought out in my mind before it’s even written. I mull ideas over and let them stay in my head until they feel worthy enough to be put on paper.
Which draft typically gets shown to your editor? How much revising happens after the editor sees that draft? This depends on which editor it is going to. The editors I work with regularly for on-going series projects will get much looser, earlier storyboard drafts. For new editors on a new project submission, I would dummy out the entire book with tighter sketches and lots of finished art samples to have a clear representation of the final book. For Be a Friend, I dummied up nearly half the 40-page picture book with finished illustrations. After it was acquired, I ended up re-doing the artwork for the entire book because I was unsatisfied with my own quality of the illustrations. So doing the final artwork in the submission stage does not necessarily mean you will have less work to do once it is acquired. After the book was sold, I did two minor revisions with my editor, though the first revision required a new ending! But the ending did not require the beginning or middle to change in this case. [Editor’s note: Over the years I’ve witnessed Salina’s personal encouragement of writers and illustrators, so it’s no surprise to me that she’s gone the extra step of providing sketch drafts for us. Click on this pdf to see her original third draft of the Duck, Duck, Porcupine! storyboard, the version she shared with her editor. The coin in the scan shows how small those sketches actually are—roughly 3″x2″. That’s as big as she works until going to final art. She enlarges the thumbnails digitally then sends them to her editor to comments upon. You’ll see her editor’s notes in green; the other notes surrounding the spread are Salina’s as she begins the revision process.]
Do you use critique partners? I do not have critique partners, but I have a couple of trusted writer friends that I like to share my ideas with. Or sometimes, I just go straight to my agent to hear what she thinks. For sequel ideas, I go straight to my editor.
Can you share an experience of having a story problem you didn’t think you could solve but eventually did? I approach writing a story like solving a puzzle. Each piece is critical in telling the story. I cut out the pieces of my thumbnails so that each spread is loose. I arrange them in page order and see which scenes are weak, or not progressing the story. Then I simply replace the weak link with a revised piece, or simply delete it and move on. There is always lots of cutting, swapping, and taping in my crafty hands-on approach to revising.
What’s the most drastic thing you’ve done to a story while revising? I’ve changed the goal of the character, which of course changed the plot, and of course changed the ending! And another time, I changed the ending… which required me to change the beginning… and revise the middle. It’s hard to change one part without impacting everything else in the story.
How do you know you’ve got the final draft? I have many false finals before it gets to the real final! This is a tough thing to know for certain, but it’s when it goes to press that I feel confident that this is it!
Thank you, Salina!