The dummy dance – part 1

When I lived in Australia, it rubbed me the wrong way when people called a pacifier a dummy. I kept imagining they were telling their babies to “dummy up”. The connotations of the word dummy in America has such negative slurs that I couldn’t shake this image until an English friend told me it was simply meant to be a way to say a replacement for the real thing… of course a dummy, like a dressmaker’s dummy, or a picture book dummy!

Of course, how many of us have sometimes felt like a dummy now and then in the process of making our book dummies?  Here is a short list of some of my many foibles along this continuing trial and error process towards progress:

The multiple times I have bounced ahead, putting together a fully polished full-color dummy, glued properly with cover, dedication page, and contacts on the back – only to realize:

I need to revise words.
Text that was on a layer was sent to the background and did not show up in the print.
An entire 2-page spread was eliminated.
I need to revise words.
Publishers / editors / agents / guidelines request a B&W dummy.  B&W. Not color.
Trying to print the color dummy out in B&W did not express the values properly, and lost the mood almost entirely. Not a quick fix.
I need to revise pictures.
Creating 3 finished art pieces to show the final style…finding out the trim size of the book is not working.
I need to revise pictures.
I need to revise words.
I need to revise pictures.
I need to revise words.

Since I am working on a dummy right now with a deadline for submission to be read [as part of my 12 X 12 Challenge membership], I will get back to work!

Well actually – not really a full dummy on this one – not enough time given or requested. But it being a story with “punny” language , and since I am an illustrator working both in my mind with the images, providing at least some of the visuals is essential. Part of creating a dummy is figuring out characters, how they look, act, move.  Figuring out the setting. Lighting. It is much like planning for a play.

Right now, I am putting together a larger cast of key characters than normal in key action scenes that show settings essential to the plot. In the culminating scene there is a celebration that includes many additional characters as well. I love these sorts of scenes because they allow me to share lots of movement, diversity, and creative stimulation to the reader / viewer. However, it is filled with complex details and arrangements, that takes quite a lot of care in composing to make sure it fits the page sizes, essential things don’t get lost in the “gutters”, and saved in formats that corrections later won’t be impossible.

But, as I said, the deadline is looming. How much I can submit will depend entirely on how focused I can be, how many interruptions happen, and staying in a flow.

Some people will tell you they work on a dummy in the same way each time. As an illustrator/author, each project the dummy dance is improv dance for me. I like to imagine I get smarter each time, but I find every project has its own rhythm and demands.

As soon as this gets sent out, back to the other 7 projects. If I can stay on task now, I hope to bring some examples here to share on process.

Good luck to all who are dancing with their dummies today!


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