This is the stage that most people think of as writing. This is when I choose the actual words that will go on the page. I've done a few drafts of the outline at this point. Now it's time to do a few drafts of the manuscript. I get to throw in fun Old West words like "vamoose" and "skedaddle." The manuscript usually starts off way too long and self-indulgent. By the time I get to the third or fourth draft, the text has been trimmed down. It's going to get cut down and reshaped even more in the next stages.
Beta Read And Notes
I'm lucky enough to have a kid audience that I can test stories on: my three daughters. I read early drafts of the story aloud to them to get their reactions and see where the text feels clunky, confusing, or overlong. For children's books, it's critical to read the story aloud until I get the rhythm right. After I read the draft to them, they give me notes and tell me what parts they liked and which parts they felt could use more work.
I get a handful of notes from other writers, but Jonathan's the key person I get notes from. He's a writer himself. We have a true collaboration, where sometimes he invents story things and sometimes I come up with art ideas. Though technically I'm the author and he's the illustrator, we blur those lines and take whatever idea's best for the book. I send every draft to him, and his notes are what give me the fuel to do the next draft.