Behind The Scenes: The Making of The Train Rolls On To The North Pole

Since The Train Rolls On To The North Pole is about to be published, I thought it'd be fun to give you a glimpse into the book-making process by showing how the first three spreads evolved during the editing, illustration, and book design phases. This way, you can see a condensed view of the steps involved in creating the finished product. Let's start with the opening spread:


Spread #1


The Finished Spread

Final Designed Spread 2-3 for The Train Rolls On To The North Pole Book Design by Veronica Scott


How We Got There

Here are the steps that we took to arrive at the finished spread:


1. Write the text.

This is a photo of the original text that I wrote for Spread #1:


Original Handwritten Notes for Spread 2-3 of The Train Rolls On To The North Pole Written by Jodi Adams

I wrote this in one of my many writing journals while laying in bed one night. It's not pretty, but I don't worry about that at the beginning. I simply jot down any and all ideas that come to mind and clean them up later on.


2. Revise the text.

Okay...time to clean up those original ideas! 😊 My initial notes were a good start, but they definitely needed some refining. So, I revised the text (likely more than once but who can remember) and came up with this:


Revised Handwritten Text for Spread 2-3 of The Train Rolls On To The North Pole Written by Jodi Adams

Better...but I still hadn't decided what text to include in the first two lines. So, I revised it one more time before sending the following text to Editor Sarah Fabiny:


Rough Draft of Spread 2-3 of The Train Rolls On To The North Pole Written by Jodi Adams

3. Professionally edit the text.

Two months (and three more rounds of revisions) later, this is where Sarah and I landed regarding the text for Spread #1:


Final Text

The Animal Express

has got a new goal–

to transport eight reindeer

back to the North Pole.


They’ve been at a spa

getting pampered all day.

Now it’s time to return

to guide Santa’s sleigh!


As you can see, there weren't many changes, and most were slight word choice modifications. The biggest change that we made was to reduce the number of reindeer from nine to eight. Whereas I had originally written the story to include a certain red-nosed reindeer, Sarah reminded me that he is, of course, a copyrighted character. Thankfully, Sarah caught that! (That's why I hired a professional editor! 😊)


4. Sketch the illustration.

Once the text was finalized, Illustrator Christina Wald set to work on the initial thumbnail illustrations. (Thumbnails are small, simplified versions of each illustration that show their general progression, content, and viewpoint. Creating the thumbnails first ensured that Christina and I were on the same page (pun intended 😃) before she spent a lot of time sketching each scene.) Here is the original thumbnail sketch for Spread #1, showing the reindeer getting pampered at an Arctic spa on Christmas Eve day:


Original Thumbnail Sketch

Thumbnail Sketch of Spread 2-3 for The Train Rolls On To The North Pole Illustrated by Christina Wald

Again, it's pretty rough, but it provides a general idea of what the final illustration will look like and where the text will fit on each page.


Final Sketch

Once the thumbnail sketches were approved, Christina began creating full-size sketches for each illustration. Besides being much bigger, these sketches included significantly more detail than the thumbnails. (By the way, seeing the full-size sketches for the first time is my favorite part of the illustration process because the story finally starts to come alive on the page!)


Final Sketch for Spread 2-3 of The Train Rolls On To The North Pole Illustrated by Christina Wald

Compared to the thumbnail for spread #1, we resituated the text to make room for a view of the train outside the window (since this is the opening spread and all). We also added the cardinal next to the train. Isn't it adorable?! It's one of my favorite spreads in the book!



5. Convert the sketch to final art.

Once all of the full-size sketches were approved, Christina started cleaning up and digitally painting each illustration. Because of their intricate detail, this was a long, involved process. It took many months for her to convert all of the sketches to final art, but, in the end, it was worth the wait! She is one talented artist!


Final Art

Final Art for Spread 2-3 of The Train Rolls On To The North Pole Illustrated by Christina Wald

6. Design the final spread.

At this point, the finished artwork was transferred to Book Designer Veronica Scott, and she and I collaborated to turn the text, illustrations, and other components into a finished book. Here's a snapshot of what that process looked like for Spread #1:


Original Designed Spread

Original Designed Spread 2-3 for The Train Rolls On To The North Pole Book Design by Veronica Scott

Final Designed Spread

Final Designed Spread 2-3 for The Train Rolls On To The North Pole Book Design by Veronica Scott

*Here, we adjusted the image so that the train is visible outside the window and shifted the text to accommodate the change. Everything else looked great from the start!



So, that is what the book creation process looked like for spread #1. Now that you've seen the process, let's quickly look at the evolution of the book's second and third spreads:


Spread #2


The Finished Spread

Final Designed Spread 4-5 of The Train Rolls On To The North Pole Book Design by Veronica Scott


How We Got There



Original Text

Original Handwritten Notes for Spread 4-5 of The Train Rolls On To The North Pole Written by Jodi Adams

Yikes! Not good! 😂



Revised Text

Revised Handwritten Text for Spread 4-5 of The Train Rolls On To The North Pole Written by Jodi Adams

Much better! 😊



Revised Text Sent To Editor Sarah Fabiny

Rough Draft of Spread 4-5 for The Train Rolls On To The North Pole Written by Jodi Adams

No changes here...for once! 😃



Final Text

They're eager to leave.

Tonight's Christmas Eve...

so the train rushes in.


Sarah apparently agreed with my revisions. Yeah! 😁🙌



Original Thumbnail Sketch

Thumbnail Sketch for Spread 4-5 of The Train Rolls On To The North Pole Illustrated by Christina Wald


Final Full-Size Sketch

Final Sketch for Spread 4-5 of The Train Rolls On To The North Pole Illustrated by Christina Wald


Final Art

Final Art for Spread 4-5 of The Train Rolls On To The North Pole Illustrated by Christina Wald


Original Designed Spread

Original Designed Spread 4-5 of The Train Rolls On To The North Pole Book Design by Veronica Scott

Final Designed Spread

Final Designed Spread 4-5 of The Train Rolls On To The North Pole Book Design by Veronica Scott

*No changes here! We tried other font colors for the refrain but ultimately settled on the original red font that Veronica chose. It pairs nicely with the cardinal and wreaths!



Spread #3


The Finished Spread

Final Designed Spread 6-7 for The Train Rolls On To The North Pole Book Design by Veronica Scott


How We Got There



Original Text


Original Handwritten Notes for Spread 6-7 of The Train Rolls On To The North Pole Written by Jodi Adams

Original Handwritten Notes for Spread 6-7 of The Train Rolls On To The North Pole Written by Jodi Adams


Revised Text

Revised Handwritten Text for Spread 6-7 of The Train Rolls On To The North Pole Written by Jodi Adams


Revised Text Sent To Editor Sarah Fabiny

Rough Draft of Spread 6-7 of The Train Rolls On To The North Pole Written by Jodi Adams


Final Text

The reindeer could fly home

without being tested,

but Santa insists

that they be well-rested.


The famous team boards-

no tickets to show.

This train's just for them.

They're ready to go!


There's plenty of coal.

Next stop: the North Pole...

AND THE TRAIN ROLLS ON!




Original Thumbnail Sketch

Thumbnail Sketch of Spread 6-7 of The Train Rolls On To The North Pole Illustrated by Christina Wald


Final Full-Size Sketch

Final Sketch of Spread 6-7 of The Train Rolls On To The North Pole Illustrated by Christina Wald


Final Art

Final Art for Spread 6-7 of The Train Rolls On To The North Pole Illustrated by Christina Wald


Original Designed Spread


Original Designed Spread 6-7 for The Train Rolls On To The North Pole Book Design by Veronica Scott

Final Designed Spread

Final Designed Spread 6-7 for The Train Rolls On To The North Pole Book Design by Veronica Scott

*We moved one stanza of text and changed the color and formatting of some of the font to make it more consistent with Book 1 and the rest of this book.



Conclusion


The goal of this article was to give you a greater understanding of what the book creation process looked like from start-to-finish. I hope that you've enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look into the process and that it helps you appreciate the effort (by our entire creative team) that went into making the final product.


Compared to The Train Rolls On, every step of the book-making process went smoother this time around. The suggested edits to the text were minimal, and there were far fewer revisions to the sketches, final artwork, and book design. Having the first book as a template undoubtedly helped, but I'd also like to think that I learned a few things with the first book that made this experience somewhat easier. (If so, Book 3 should be breeze...right? 😉) All I know is that I'm really proud of this book and how it has turned out, and (dare I say it) I might like it even better than the first book. (Shhh...that's between you and me! 😉)


Further Reading


If you'd like to compare the evolution of this book to that of The Train Rolls On, check out my blog entitled Behind The Scenes: The Evolution of The Train Rolls On. Or, for a behind-the-scenes look at this book's cover creation process, read Cover Reveal: The Train Rolls On To The North Pole.




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