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Diary of a First Time Author

Updated: Feb 7

Back in 2021, I announced that I would be writing a children's picture book! It's part of a creative research project I'm doing within my school's honors college. It's about a young girl and her family's trip to the Mojave Desert.

I love writing. I like to read. And I use adobe illustrator very frequently. So I thought I would put all of those skills together to write and illustrate a children's picture book. I have never done anything like this, and I know it's going to require a lot of work. But I've already made it through the research process, so I have to keep going. (I posted the research portion of this project here).

I thought I would let you in on the journey of this project. So check back for more updates from this first time author.



Today I started storyboarding for the picture book. I was supposed to have started this part in December…but here we are. Things are coming together slowly, but I feel way in over my head. The rough draft of the book needs to be done by March 11. That’s in a month!! I have a lot more work to do, and not much time to do it in. Everything about this process is new, and I’m starting to think I’m crazy for choosing to do allll of the parts of this picture book by myself. But it’s too late to quit now.



I picked up where I left off from yesterday and continued illustrating some of the animal characters on adobe illustrator. I’ve been trying to get the basic shapes down for each of the characters, and then edit them, change the colors, and do all of that texture stuff later. I also made a rough draft of the storyboard. It has my “proposed” scenes and illustrations for each page. The next big thing I need to work on is the actual script. Originally, I wanted my script to rhyme, but now I’m not so sure.

The hardest part about this project is knowing which part of it I should work on for the day. There are a ton of things that need to be done, and sometimes I feel like I need to work on every to-do item at the same time. But that is obviously not possible.

I might start posting progress of my illustrations…but you have to promise to not make fun of them. The key word is ROUGH DRAFT.



Today I reviewed my storyline and decided to start working on the actual script. I wrote out some dialogue/storyline for four different pages. It was kind of hard at first, but being able to look at the storyboard really helped. As I was writing, I even started to envision certain illustrations that could go along with the portion of script I was writing. Just when I was on a roll, I had to stop so that I could work on the other assignments I had for the day. I wish I could just focus all of my time to this project.



I knocked out 8 pages of the script today. My college brain keeps on wanting to use big words, and complicated sentences, but then I have to remind myself I’m writing as a 7 year old little girl who probably wouldn’t use the same words that I do. I’m trying to just write out whatever comes into my head and then go back to fix it later, but it's hard to not fix the mistakes right away.

Things I still need to do before March 11th

  • Write the other 11 pages

  • Edit & revise script

  • Come up with a title for the book

  • Draw the rest of the animal characters

  • Draw backgrounds for each scene

  • Figure out how I want to texturize the illustrations

  • Add some more sections to my thesis paper



Today I was very tired and did not feel like writing at all. So I read a picture book.

Still didn’t feel inspired.

Played my “inspiration playlist” (mainly a bunch of Disney songs). Stood out in my backyard. Ate some pineapple. Prayed. And then decided to go back upstairs to write. And what do ya know, I was able to write 8 more pages of the script.

The only thing left to write is 2 filler pages in the middle, some clever ending line, and the 2 information pages in the back of the book. After I do that, I’ll be going back through the script to make it sound better!



To give myself a break from the script, I worked on the 2 fact sheets at the end of the book and on my thesis paper. I just needed to add a few sections to the paper and change my methods paragraph to past tense. Now all I need is to add the finished book rough draft to the thesis and it’ll be ready to go for my 3/11 deadline.



I finished the rest of script editing. I added more dialogue and rearranged some parts. After reading back through the whole thing, it’s sounding more like a full story I think i need a few more read-throughs before it’s complete.

Towards the end of my time today, I worked on the thumbnails (illustrations for each page). I now have a general idea of what I want each page to look like. I am 3 days out from my deadline and this is what I have left to do

  • finish the last “fact sheet” page

  • Further revise script

  • Digitize illustrations

  • Come up with a title for the book



Deadline day. Oh boy. I spent A LOT of my day trying to work on more illustrations, but making them detailed took a lot more time than I anticipated. By the end of the day, I hadn’t finished everything, but my brain was too fired to work on anything else. So I sent my faculty advisor my progress and what unfinished work I did have.

I plan to work on the illustrations more during spring break.



I set out to work on the book more since I had this week of. I did make some progress…but not nearly as much as I had planned to, which is okay. I decided I needed to take an actual break from school so that I can hit the ground running when I got back.



I ended up splitting the book illustrations into two separate files in Adobe illustrator; it was taking too much time to save the work, and I didn’t want to slow my computer down too much. I ended up finishing all of the rough sketches for the first half of the book (minus the title page——I’m also deciding to wait til the end to add in the human characters for each scene).



I focused on finishing the “extra information” pages that algo in the back of the book. It will take up two pages and will have small sections on “the Mojave desert”, “umbrella species”, “about the project”, and a”bout the author.”

Later on in the day, I found some time to work on the second half of the illustrations and actually got a lot done. Now, I only have 3 pages to rough sketch.



I had a class meeting for this project today. We went over some last minute deadlines, submissions for a research conference, and what our presentations should look like. As part of this class, we will be presenting our research at UNLV’s OUR symposium April 27th.

After speaking with some members of my committee, I decided that I would do a podium presentation with slides. I was looking at some slide templates, but then decided that I would design my own. So I started working on the layout for that and am super excited about it; this way, my presentation will be cohesive with my actual book and illustrations.

For the OUR symposium, I need to turn in an abstract for my work by April 1st, so I worked on that today as well. Here is what I have (I still need to think of a title for the picture book, lol):

When faced with issues like climate change which can seem too big to handle, we are often left wondering, what can we even do to help? Education is key for finding solutions. Picture books are a perfect means for educating the next generation because they incorporate lexical and visual components together in an entertaining way for kids. Knowing this, I decided to create a picture book “Title of Book Here,” that introduces the audience––children from ages 4 through 8––to the animals of the Mojave Desert. The goal of this book is to increase children’s interest for this desert, and nature as a whole, so that when these children grow up, they will be inclined towards making decisions that promote the well-being of our environment.

Readers meet the main character, Nyla, in a state of frustration after she finds out her family’s annual trip will be to the Mojave Desert instead of at the beach. To Nyla, the desert is a barren land filled with tumbleweeds and sand; it is not until her parents give her the task of searching for some of the many animals of this desert, that Nyla realizes how full of life this ecosystem really is. By the end of the trip, she has had a change of heart, and can’t wait to come back again so she can see more of what the Mojave Desert has to offer.

I've been working on this background type stuff all morning (I am currently still in my pajamas, hair undone, and it's 12:40 pm), so I think it's about time I take a lunch break, but I plan to finish all of the rough sketches for the second half of the book today.

My next deadline is next Tuesday, the 29th. I will need to turn my thesis in to my entire committee. The goal is to have all of the illustrations completely done by then, but if not, I for sure want to have alllll of the sketches and text placement done to turn in.

All prayers for inspiration, efficiency, and motivation are welcomed :)



Today I’m feeling a little bit of imposter syndrome. I’ve been working on this project for so long that when I look at it, I start to wonder if it’s even good. Will people want to buy this book? Will they read it? Will they like the message? Are the illustrations even good enough? My mind lies to me and tells me that my only customers will be relatives and that their purchases will just be out of pity.

But I’m pushing through these feelings and am still trekking along. I just finished the basic rough drafts for all of the illustrations, and just need to go back in to add the juman characters. I’m hoping that tomorrow will be filled with me just coloring everything in.

Here’s to working even when you don’t feel like it, and telling imposter syndrome that it’s a liar.


My abstract has been submitted to UNLV’s OUR symposium!! Which means I am officially entered to be part of the research convention that is happening. The actual event isn't until April, but I need to start preparing for my presentation now.



I got an email back from the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) saying that my abstract had been accepted! They are supposed to let me know the exact time I'll be presenting a few days before the symposium.

I also finished coloring in all of the illustrations for the first half of my picture book. Yay for progress!



Today I colored in two more pages of illustrations on the second half of the book. I definitely still need to figure out what texture style I want because so far, the feel of the illustrations isn’t exactly what I had imagined.

I worked on the slides some more. I’ve realized that I will need to make two different versions of the slides. One for my actual thesis defense which would be an updated version of my presentation from last semester. I would need to add in pictures of the actual book. And then the second presentation for the UNLV OUR symposium is going to be a little less detailed and not have as much jargon or super sciency words. I was able to copy and paste some things from my previous presentation outline to the new one. Hopefully I’ll be done with the slides by next week.



My honors college advisor emailed me back with some revisions and suggestions from my most recent project due date. She mentioned that I should find a way to not make the story sound so rushed, included some grammar fixes, but overall said I have done a good job.

She also mentioned that I really need to watch my timeline. My presentation is due next Friday (April 15th,) which means I need to have the book illustrations done by the 14th!! That’s 8 days!!!

For a moment, I was hyper-fixated on the critiques she made, but then had to remind myself that she started out by saying what a great job I had done so far. I repeated the praise over and over again until I believed it and then got to work on the suggested edits.



I worked on the rest of the feedback my honors college advisor gave me; which included. I also finished coloring in most of the illustrations for the book! There are only 2 pages left for me to do, which is very exciting.

Towards the end of my time, I started working on the powerpoint presentation. I did not feel like doing it at all, but I was able to get a lot done still.



I started adding the script to the illustrated pages! I ended up changing some pages around to create more negative space for the words to fit in. My graphic design focused committee member gave me some feedback today as well. She gave me a lot of pointers and was a bit overwhelming at first, but I know that everything she mentioned was necessary. My prayer is that I’ll be able to finish all that she said before this Friday…when the book needs to be done. (In hind sight, I should have been sending her my illustration progress sooner than now)



Today I began by editing my thesis paper and then moved on to look at the comments my design committee member made in my illustrations. One of the major things she mentioned was that some of my sentences were too complex. My book reads a little more like a novel. It’s funny because it was super hard for me to simplify my word choice in this version of the script, but now I need to go back and simplify it even more. Ahhhhh.

Writing this picture book goes against almost everything I know about writing. My sentences need to be more simplified. I need to take out any words that aren’t necessary to the story. I need to add more exclamation marks.

Im pretty sure figuring out the title for this book will be the death of me. I’ve made a stream of consciousness list for possible titles. There are a few that I like, but I feel like I can do better. But I really need to find the title soon because I need to finish the most important part of the book: the cover!



Today was a wild one. I wasn’t able to get any work done yesterday, so I needed to make up for it. I redid allll of the characters eyes and added shadows. Even with just those two changes, I liked how they looked even more.

I decided that I would focus on the 6 pages that I’ll be adding to my OUR slides presentation (which is due tomorrow at 5pm). I added the revised script to each of those pages and then started switching around the global colors to make the contrast better.

The hardest colors to change have been the red-Orange color of the mountain and the green color of the bushes and cacti. The two colors have been clashing and it kind of makes your eyes hurt, so it’s gonna take some more messing around to get the right combination.

I’ve been working on just the book intermittently from 9am to 9pm, which is the latest I have ever worked on it (I don’t do school work after 6pm if I can help it) but these are desperate times.



I started off today by continuing with my color editing.

*fun fact: anytime I work on my book, I play “classics for creativity” playlists. It makes me feel like a real artist, lol.*

***second to last page add a bunch of pictures that mac took. Could be of flowers, animals, sunset



Today I had my rehearsal for my thesis defense. I practiced my script all day long and timed myself to make sure I was meeting that 15 minute minimum. For the first time ever, I wasn’t nervous when I walked into the conference room. Maybe it’s because I’ve been working with my honors committee member for a whole year or because I had already presented a few times last semester. But it all went really smoothly, and the only critiques my advisor had were about grammar errors on my slides. This was also her first time seeing my finished illustrations and she was pretty impressed.

The outcome of this rehearsal made me feel really confident in my project and relieved some of my worries about my real presentations for next week.



Today I started looking up picture book mocks so that I could get an idea of what the book would look like. Luckily, I was able to find a few free photoshop files and added my illustrations in. Seeing my illustrations in the picture book mock was so surreal and made me super excited😆

I also googled where I could print out custom “photo album books.” That way I could print out my book just to see what it would look like. I ended up ordering through Office Depot, and the book is set to get here by the 28th!!!!



I did not do much at all this week except for practice my slides.



ONE OF THE BIGGEST MILESTONES HAPPENED TODAY. I presented my work at the OUR symposium🤩 the event went from 9am-2pm and my presentation was promptly from 10:41-10:52am. I was a little nervous on my way to school because my throat was kinda raspy and it would’ve been absolutely terrible for me to lose my voice today. But praise God, I was able to make it through (with the help of tea, water, and cough drops).

I practiced my script a little bit after I checked in and then to get my mind off of things, I work on some of the many papers that are due in the next week for other classes. 10:41 came around super quickly and before I knew it, I was up at the podium getting ready to speak. The presentation went really smoothly. I only got tripped up and paused a few times. I was told that I sounded really good and didn’t say “um” or “like” a lot which is something that I try to be super conscious of.

A lot of people sounded intrigued by my work and asked me questions about conservation, when I would be publishing my book, had I thought about marketing yet, and so much more. It was really rewarding to hear people be interested in what I’ve been so much time on; I even got to have a conversation with one of my current professors about it.

I am very proud of myself for making it this far and super happy to be able to check this off of my to-do list.

AND that picture book sample I ordered from Office Depot came in!!!!!!!!!!! I could not believe I was holding my book in my hands. It felt so weird to see my work in person and be able to turn the pages. I for real can’t even describe the feeling. I immediately went upstairs and placed it in front of alllll my other books on my bookshelf. What a great day.

The only thing left is my thesis defense on Friday.

(I'm feeling generous so I'll give ya'll a sneak peak into my sketch process AND some mockups of the actual picture book. My favorite is the progression of the main character Nyla)



Today was a busy day. I felt tired and bogged down by my allergies and was just generally on edge because of that was going to be happening. I had some plans to hang out with friends early on in the day, and I planned to go straight home and sleep. Before I could even walk into my house, I checked my email and noticed a message with "congratulations" in the subject line. I opened it up and found out that I had won a scholarship I applied for! I felt truly honored and really appreciated the win, but I was so tired I could properly process what had happened until later. So I took a nap and hoped that my energy would return before I needed to present my research and final product.

I showed up to the conference a few minutes early so that I could set everything up and hopefully get some of my nerves out before 3pm came around. After everyone got settled, I started on the presentation. I was more nervous than on Wednesday or even at my rehearsal last week; I guess having my entire committee in the room made me feel a little bit more on edge.

I got through the presentation within 15ish minutes and then answered some questions. Then I stepped out of the room to go and wait outside with my family. Shortly after that, they called me back in and announced that I had passed the class and gotten an A! They gave me a few adjustments to make before I turn everything back in one last how I'll need to go back in and change all of my cacti because they are the wrong species, lol. They were very impressed with how everything came out, and loved that I brought a printed version of the book.

The fact that we have already made it to this part of the semester absolutely blows my mind. I remember when I first started this project in 2021 and all of these due dates seemed so far away. "Being an author," seemed like something still to come. I'm so proud of myself for all that I have accomplished this year and hope that I can find some time to rest soon so I can fully sit in all that has happened.

If you want to hear my thesis defense, click this link to see the video!


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