• Events,  Smart Dummies

    Smart Dummies Finish Line

    Smart Dummies is Over

    How did you do this month? Did you finish your dummy? If you didn’t finish how far did you get? However much work you did CONGRATULATIONS! Smart Dummies is not necessarily about finishing. It’s about making good habits and getting more work done!

    How did you do this month? Did you finish your dummy? If you didn’t finish how far did you get? However much work you did CONGRATULATIONS! Smart Dummies is not necessarily about finishing. It’s about making good habits and getting more work done! If you were able to finish Smart Dummies I have a special badge for you. Please link it to daniduck.com/blog! I will be taking the Smart Dummies booklet offline November 15th, so be sure to pick it up here: https://www.daniduck.com/register-for-smart-dummies-2019/

    Smart Dummies 2019 Winner Badge!

    Smart Dummies Survey

    I have a quick 2 minute – 6 question survey to help make Smart Dummies better. Please let me know any problems you had with the event. I can only make things better by knowing. Please include your contact info in the survey if you would like me to address anything. This survey is completely anonymous, so if you don’t give me your info I wont know who completed the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HDG89YR

    Smart Dummies has changed a lot over the years, and next year will be no different, however some things will go back to the way they’ve been for several years. My 3 year old will be in school, so I will have more time during the week to run Smart Dummies. (YAY!) Please let me know if you like or dislike any of the ideas below.

    Smart Dummies 2020

      • Bringing Back Guests – This will possibly bring back prizes! The guest list will be short so you can spend less time reading and more time creating.
      • Process Videos – More videos will be made to help you create your art!
      • More Help – This highly depends on the Survey results, so if you want to see more help, then fill out the survey so I can see what you want! https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HDG89YR (You can also comment below.) 
      • No Pre-Smart Dummies – I loved Pre-Smart Dummies, but it seems as though I’m going through most of the same information twice. I think I can give better and more information if we skip this part of the event. It also feels a bit confusing and makes the event feel like it’s taking up more of the year which is overwhelming on my end (and may be on yours)!
      • Some Pre-Event Activities – I think I will be talking more about editing your story before Smart Dummies. I will be giving a few tips on the event, but wont be providing as much new information before the event. You can still do all of the prep work that Pre-Smart Dummies encouraged, before Smart Dummies begins.
      • A Booklet Redesign – I’m not sure how much is going to change, but I’d like to make some changes to the current booklet!

    Did you like Smart Dummies? Consider Supporting me on Patreon! There will be more great videos all year long plus lots of other great rewards: https://www.patreon.com/SmartDummies

    Want to participate in another great event? Try Spring into Writing starting May 1st! It’s a laid-back event that’s all about having fun while writing. https://www.daniduck.com/springintowriting/

  • Events,  Smart Dummies

    Perspective & Loose Drawing


    Before you go into perspective or loose drawings make sure that you can visualize your pictures. If possible fix your problems in your thumbnails, because that’s when it’s easiest to make changes. Here are a couple of links for some great design principals. 




    Perspective is one of the necessary evils of drawing, but it’s not too hard to learn. The most important ones to learn is 1 and 2 point perspective. 3 point perspective is also fun, but most useful if you are drawing the tops of buildings/from an overhead perspective. Three point perspective can also be used to draw an object floating/above the ground.

    Scrapped room layout for a picture book dummy.

    I learned perspective in high school. We may have gone over it briefly in university, but being out of practice for so long makes remembering the finder details difficult. I’ve recently had to do a refresher myself to reacquaint myself with perspective. Instead of explaining it myself I’m going to give you links for 3 great videos and some extra explanation for one point perspective!


    One Point Perspective: https://www.studentartguide.com/articles/one-point-perspective-drawing

    https://thevirtualinstructor.com/onepointperspective.html (video and reading/pictures of what’s in the video)

    Two Point Perspective: https://thevirtualinstructor.com/twopointperspective.html (video and reading/pictures of what’s in the video)

    Three Point Perspective: https://thevirtualinstructor.com/threepointperspective.html (video and reading/pictures of what’s in the video)​

    Loose Drawings

    It helps me to work on a full-sized loose version of all my drawings before I start on my finals. Some people find it helpful to use a copier or their computer to increase the size of their thumbnails and draw on top of that. 

    Some people work best going straight into their full sized work after they finish their thumbnails. How you want to proceed is up to you. If you aren’t sure at all how to proceed, please ask! 

    The finals can be somewhat sketchy. There will be some final images to include with your dummy so an editor/agent/art director can better envision the final book.

  • Events,  Smart Dummies

    Thumbnails and Research

    A Change in Plans

    I had started with a lot of good ideas for a Cinderella story here: https://www.daniduck.com/planning-out-your-pages/. While planning out the pages in thumbnails I realized two things. 1) I realized I messed up with the numbers. I had said there was 13 spreads and there were 14.5. (I’ve changed this on the original.) I realized after the second mistake 2) Doing a 14.5 spread changes everything. And I changed even more to bring it to 15 spreads. Below accurately shows the spreads:

    1. Cinderella’s father remarries. (1/2 spread)
    2. Cinderella’s step mother and sisters are mean to her. (1 spread)
    3. The prince announces there will be a ball so he can find a wife. (1 spread)
    4. Cinderella told she’s not allowed to go to the ball which upsets her. (1 spread)
    5. Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother appears and gives her everything she needs for the ball (Cinderella must be back by midnight). (4 spreads)
    6. Cinderella goes to the ball (2.5 spreads)
    7. Cinderella forgets about the time and rushes out of the ball at the last minute leaving her glass slipper. (1.5 spreads)
    8. The prince looks for Cinderella with the one lost slipper. (1 spread)
    9. The slipper fits. (1 spread)
    10. A royal wedding (1 spread)
    11. The prince and Cinderella live happily ever after. (1/2 spread)

    More Mistakes and a Video

    I realized after I made this video that I missed a spread! I miscounted. The extra spread brings things up to 15 spreads in total which is a colored ends layout: https://taralazar.com/2009/02/22/picture-book-construction-know-your-layout/

    Start your thumbnails out messy. You are just trying to get the basic layout of your story first. Then, start over and make slightly tighter thumbnails, so you can tell better what the images are. This video shows you both tight and loose drawings.



    Now that you have an idea of what your pages are going to look like, take some time to do research. Take pictures, pose your children or pose yourself. (Don’t take pictures of children without written permission from their parents). 

    You can also do an internet search to find reference photos. Photographers are very serious about their photos and will sue if you steal an image directly or have an image too simular to theirs. Use several different images to come up with your illustration. You might take a nose style from a few pictures. Hair styles from another. You can piece together a person from many photos, but drawing all or part of someone else’s photograph/illustration is not a good idea. 

  • Events,  Smart Dummies

    Smart Dummies Week 3: Planning Out Pages/Drawing

    All sorts of things are happening this week!  A bit of planning, research, thumbnails and perspective are all on the schedule. If you have time you can start working on your drawings.

    Smart Dummies Schedule Week 3

    Sunday – Smart Dummies Week 3 Schedule

    Monday – Planning out pages

    Tuesday – Thumbnails and Research

    Thursday – Perspective & Loose Drawing

    Friday – Book Blog

    Sunday – Smart Dummies Week 4 schedule

    If you haven’t signed up for Smart Dummies do so here: https://www.daniduck.com/register-for-smart-dummies-2019/

  • Art,  Events,  Smart Dummies

    Character Turnarounds

    A character turnaround is a way to get to know your character from all angles. This is the information you’ll need to draw your character the same way every time! Even though you make these your character may evolve while you are creating your book and that’s okay, too!

    Things you might need: 
    Paper, Pencil and likely a ruler. Tracing paper or a light box is optional. Possibly a right angle ruler.

    Or a digital photo/illustration program. Must be able to work in transparent layers and have guidelines (which is most digital programs).

    If you have not signed up for Smart Dummies this year you can do so here:  https://www.daniduck.com/register-for-smart-dummies-2019/

    Full Character Drawings

    In your booklet on pages 10 -11 you’ll see some lined paper. I find this as the easiest way for me to plot out my character. Especially the easiest way to execute the Turnaround. The top is a full character turnaround and the bottom is a face. 

    When I’m doing character drawings I generally make the face large and the I like making eyes be big enough to fit on a line. It makes it easiest for me to figure out where everything should be. It’s really nice to be able to know which line the eyes, mouth and nose should rest. It’s really easy to get the character’s side, 3/4th or front view off because visually it will look okay, but if you use a ruler things will be way off.

    There are some artists who prefer to use graph paper, and that’s not wrong! It’s just not the way I do it. I find the vertical lines throw me off, but they are great for making sure the width of everything is the same throughout the drawing.

    Some turnarounds for characters. Face is front side and 3/4th view.

    I started out with a lot of scribbles and a little bit of an idea of what I was going to create for my portfolio. It was going to be a comic style illustration.  I had basic ideas for character design before I worked on some thumbnails. Most of the story I worked on in the left hand side will likely never be in an illustration. Sometimes it helps to work on what happens before a scene, even if that work isn’t seen by other people. 

    These are the characters I started with. Just a kitty and a girl. I liked the kitty, but the girl I didn’t really like. She felt too old for the story I wanted to write. She also was quite plain. I added some ears later to make her a bear character. I had a friend who asked if she was a giant mouse. She wasn’t, but I thought it was more fun for her to be a giant mouse taking care of a kitten, So things were changed!

    Tracing Paper

    One thing I adore about using Clip Studio Paint (and all other digital programs) is the ability to to make a layer more transparent. This allows you to draw your character with a light table effect. You can make sure that your character is similar from all angles! Her eyes nose and mouth all line up and the width of the character stays the same throughout. 

    If you are working traditionally I highly suggest a light table or tracing paper to create your images. This will allow you to make sure your character looks alike in all their poses.

    Guidelines Digital and Traditional

    Digital: If your digital program has a ruler, then it probably has the ability to make guidelines. Just right click on the ruler, while you are holding the right button drag the line to where you want it, and then let go of the button. You can change where the line is with an arrow button This can vary from program to program.

    I started this drawing with putting lines around the feet head and hands. I can also check the hem of her pants and all the facial features with the guidelines. They can get to be too much while drawing, so there is always a place in your program to turn these off.

    Traditional: If you are drawing a character traditionally you almost have to draw in all the lines. I said before that I minimize this by using lined paper. This helps a lot, but there is likely something else that I can’t quite line up that way. If you have a right angle ruler you can put a ruler vertically along the right or left edge of the paper (preferably the red line on lined paper) and draw a horizontal line across the paper.

    Alternatively you can use a ruler to measure out where each new line goes. This takes a lot of dots and line drawing. It’s frustrating and I hate it, but use it often.

    The third option is to just eyeball the whole thing on lined or graph paper. This option is great for all us stubborn people out there. It’s maybe not the best option, but it’s still an option.

    The Best Laid Plans

    Sometimes even the best laid plans go awry! Neither character here is what I expected them to be, but it’s closer to my final drawing than any of the previous drafts. I’ve made my cat’s head much more rounded and the girl’s features are much more animal like. Even though I worked on these characters several times the characters kept changing in the drawings. I had just finished working on a cat story and the characters in the dummy were exactly like the characters I designed for the dummy.


    Ideally, you’ll come up with a character design that you’ll just use in your drawings. Ideally, your whole story wont change while you are working on it. I do hope things wont change for you, but if they do accept the changes and have fun with your art!

    If there is anything you need explained further let me know! I could possibly do a video if there are people who would like to see it!

  • Events,  Smart Dummies

    Smart Dummies Week 2: Advanced Character Design

    This week it’s all about finishing up your character. Monday we’ll be talking about character turnarounds and character emotions. These are the two activities you’ll be working on until Monday. These are on pages 10-13. 

    Also this week I’m going over some good critique group practices, Ksenia Anske will talk about her Finance and Business Coaching and there will be a book blog on Friday! The critique groups are closed. You are welcome to ask for a critique group on the Smart Dummies Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/548159692008535

    If you haven’t signed up for Smart Dummies do so here: https://www.daniduck.com/register-for-smart-dummies-2019/

    Smart Dummies Schedule Week 2

    Sunday – Smart Dummies Week 2 Schedule

    Monday – Character Turnarounds (page 10-11)

    Tuesday – Critique Group Practices (page 3)

    Wednesday – Ksenia Anske’s Finance & Business Coaching

    Thursday – Character Emotion and Poses (pages 12-13)

    Friday – Book Blog

    Sunday – Smart Dummies Week 3 schedule

    If you have already worked on any of the above and wish to move on feel free to work ahead. There is a Smart Dummies Regular schedule and a Smart Dummies adjusted schedule on page 4 of the booklet! You can get the booklet here: https://www.daniduck.com/register-for-smart-dummies-2019/

  • Events,  Smart Dummies,  Writing

    Editing Your Story

    There was something wrong with the “Make Your Marks and Splashes” link I sent out this morning. It’s changed now on the post, but here is the new link if you want: https://illustratechildrensbooks.com/childrens-book-illustration-school-fall-2019/?affiliate=daniduck

    I have a few tips that helps me with editing. I’m going to post these below. These are general rules and there may be exceptions. I also asked my friends to give me their favorite sites for Writing and Editing. I will be posting those links below!

    Editing Tips

    Picture Books are 500 Words or Less – Less is more and I’ve heard of trends of 250 words or less. Here are some more kidlit wordcounts: https://kidlit.com/2009/11/13/manuscript-length/  I am uncertain about exact numbers Graphic Novels for kids, they can be Picture Book in page length to a couple hundred pages (for Adults)

    Humans Repeat Themselves –  Look for repetitive words in your manuscripts. This can help reduce your word count and help keep your story fresh page after page.

    Don’t use Illustration Notes: Only use them if you need that note as an important descriptor to the text. If it’s important that your main character is wearing a long sleeve shirt, because they are doing a magic trick later, then keep the note. Not every manuscript needs art notes! If you are an illustrator it is okay to use art notes for your own personal use!

    Describe Only What Needs Describing: Picture books should have little or no description. Outside of this there is still the habit of describing too much. The balance of this can be tricky. Your character is travelling from their house to the library. Maybe mention the leaving home and entering the library. The audience doesn’t need to hear how the MC got into the car, buckled their seat belt, spent 15 minutes picking a song, and how the drive was to the library. Anything mentioned about the vehicle should be a literary vehicle to move the story from one place to the next as quickly as possible.  

    Get a Critique Group: Or individuals who can help you with your story. You might have several people in your group or you might just do a swap with a friend. Critique groups are one of the best ways to get a second opinion on your work. Critique groups for Smart Dummies are opening soon!

    Extra Resources

    Mary Kole’s Blog https://kidlit.com/
    See writing and illustrating resources page on writersrumpus.com. 
    Also kidlit 411 has a lot of links to resources http://www.kidlit411.com/.


    The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults https://www.amazon.com/Magic-Words-Writing-Children-Adults/dp/039329224X/

  • Events,  Smart Dummies

    Pre-Smart Dummies Starts Now

    To sign up for Smart Dummies go here: https://www.daniduck.com/register-for-smart-dummies-2019and be sure to sign up for emails!

    This year Smart Dummies is going to be a bit different. I’m going to work to make this more of a community event! I’m hoping we can help each other to make stronger dummies. Not only that but I want as many people as possible to actually finish their dummies this year! 

    What’s leaving Smart Dummies 2019?

    Besides being on this new web address Smart Dummies will not be having guest and likely not prizes this year. I will be removing the calendar from the Smart Dummies booklet.

    I’ve had to think hard about this, because I don’t have time to run it like I have in previous years. However I’m hoping what we lose will be regained in new parts of the event.

    What’s Staying the Same?

    We’ll still be having critique groups, badges, and the Smart Dummies digital workbook will be back soon! Weekly posts will let you know what we are doing all week long!

    What’s New?

    I’m hoping to get a few more people helping out with Process Posts (see below). These posts will be hosted on other blogs with links from my blog. I’m hoping to have (or find) answers to all of your Dummy Creation Questions! There will be more action on the Facebook Group (BTW everyone is welcome to post non-promotional material there). There is the possibility of a twitter/video chats. And maybe a few surprises. I will be adjusting the calendar in the Smart Dummies booklet to reflect the different subjects we are covering.

    Process Posts

    The post below is something I’ve already posted on Facebook. I’m looking for help with process posts. Do you have any of these posts already on your blog? Great, just let me know, send me a link and photo from your post and I’ll share it during Smart Dummies! 

    Looking for people who have a technique or process they’d like to share. Your post about this does not have to be on my blog (but it can be). It can be something from an old post of yours. Here are some of the subjects I’m looking for, but it doesn’t have to be limited to these:
    • Turning Public Domain Stories into Picture Books
    • Marking up a Script for Illustration
    • Researching Images
    • Doodling
    • Character Design
    • Character Emotions
    • Thumbnails
    • Loose Page Drafts
    • Preparing Substrates (traditional artists)
    • Any Posts About Technique
    • Anything Else to do with Art or Dummies
  • Events,  Spring into Writing,  Writing

    Spring into Writing Winners!

    Is anyone else sad that Spring into Writing is over? I’m sad! Also happy because I can move on to other things!


    Have 3 minutes to fill out a survey about Spring into Writing? https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/P2R5B9Q

    Want to help out with Spring into Writing? Donate: https://www.patreon.com/SmartDummies 

    Or on Kofi: ko-fi.com/daniduck



    Donated by Becky Aren’t “The Coloring Book for Writers” by
    Linda Faulkerson. 

    The winner is: DEBRA M DAUGHERTY!


    Melissa Stoller donated 3 books and the winners are:

    The Enchanted Snow Globe — BECKY AREN’T 

    The Magic Paintbrush — LAURI MEYERS

    Ready, Set, Gorilla! — LAURA HARTMAN


    Congratulations everyone!


    How you can help out Spring into Writing:

    If you’ve enjoyed this event please consider helping me out. The easiest ways is commenting on posts and filling out the survey I’m going to post next week.

    I am looking for people to help me figure out some things for Spring into Writing and Smart Dummies. If you want to help please let me know! 

    Please Donate:

    If you liked the Spring into Writing event please consider a donation. This website costs a good amount of money to keep going, and 

  • Events,  Spring into Writing,  Writing

    Spring into Writing Finish Line

    Spring into Writing is unfortunately done for this year. Well the actual event is over, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop having fun with our writing. There are some things I didn’t find time to talk about for the event and I fully plan on talking about them throughout the year. I will be announcing winners soon so you still have a little time to go back and comment on the posts you’ve missed. I hope you’ve enjoyed Spring into Writing! Let me know below what you’ve achieved this month. 

    I will be taking down the booklet at the end of this month, so download it now here: https://www.daniduck.com/spring-into-writing/

    How you can help out Spring into Writing:

    If you’ve enjoyed this event please consider helping me out. The easiest ways is commenting on posts and filling out the survey I’m going to post next week.

    I am looking for people to help me figure out some things for Spring into Writing and Smart Dummies. If you want to help please let me know! 

    Please Donate:

    If you liked the Spring into Writing event please consider a donation. This website costs a good amount of money to keep going. It also takes a lot of time to make the booklets for these events. I want to keep the downloads free for everyone. If you are able please consider donating:

    https://www.patreon.com/SmartDummies (There are levels where you can get booklets sent to you every year).

    One time donations: https://ko-fi.com/A484NS9


    Thank you all for being a part of

    Spring into Writing 2019!