Guest Post: First Draft (Madhvi Ramani)

First Draft

Today’s guest post is from writer Madhvi Ramani

ninaWe all know that writing is re-writing, right? By the time my first children’s book Nina and the Travelling Spice Shed was accepted for publication, I had re-written it about fifty times. That’s not an exaggeration; it started out as a story called Charlie and Nina.

So I was pretty sure that my character arc made sense, the plot was tight, and that every word was in order when it went to the publisher’s – but then it came back, covered in notes, question marks, and suggested changes. It was like being back at first draft.

Here’s a key scene from my original manuscript, in which Nina is about to discover that the garden shed that her aunt stores spices in can magically transport you anywhere in the world, followed by the published version.


Chapter Three

Nina walked through Aunt Nishi’s unkempt garden, towards the shed. It was old and crooked and almost completely camouflaged by the tall grass and weeds that surrounded it. Once again, she thought how strange it was that such a ramshackle construction should be paired with such a perfect little key.

When Nina arrived at the shed, she leant forward to unlock the door with the key still hanging from her neck, and decided that Aunt Nishi must have given her the wrong key after all; it didn’t fit.  Nina fumbled around with it a bit more just to be sure, but just as she was ready to give up, the lock clicked open.

She pushed the heavy door open and as soon as she stepped inside, it shut behind her and a light came on automatically.  Along two sides of the shed were rows of shelves stacked with hundreds of glass jars filled with different coloured spices.  Nina spotted the one with yellow powder in it and picked it up, careful not to touch anything else.  When she got to the door, she balanced the jar in one hand with the help of her knee, and attempted to open the door with the other.  But the jar started to wobble and before Nina could get it under control, it fell and smashed.

The yellow powder flew in all directions.


chapter three

Click image to enlarge

As you can see, not only does the published version look prettier – thanks to the wonderful illustrations provided by Erica-Jane Waters – but it reads better. The sentences are slicker, the build-up of tension is greater, details richer, sequence of events clearer, and, as a result, our empathy with the main character is increased.

I’m currently going through the editing process for my second book Nina and the Kung Fu Adventure, due out later this year, and unlike the first time around, I really appreciate the process because I know how valuable it can be!

Madhvi’s book Nina and the Travelling Spice Shed for children 7+ is out now. You can follow her on twitter @madhviramani.


Unrelated link of the day:

15 Tips for Handling Writing Criticism

Unrelated video of the day:

The Ender’s Game trailer is out! View, enjoy, and be awed.


Categories: Guest Post, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Post navigation

7 thoughts on “Guest Post: First Draft (Madhvi Ramani)

  1. Wow. It really does read better with the illustrations.

    • I kind of want to get my book illustrated. Although that would make it a picture book, which might attract children to read it, which would in turn scar their adorable little brains for life. 😀

  2. Thanks for sharing. I love how you added the sense of smell. This is a great example of using more of the senses to bring a scene to life. I almost sneezed too 🙂

  3. Thanks for the pingback, lovely.

  4. Excellent! You may have given me my quote of the day with “writing is rewriting” 🙂

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: