Back in 2017, when I started writing ABUELITA AND I MAKE FLAN my story looked like a list of ingredients (literally) and a recipe. I took this to my first writing critique group (!!Qué pena!! but you have to start somewhere). I had a hazy vision in my head for a story about a grandchild and grandparent making flan together.
The story changed shape many times between 2017 and it's publication in 2022.
In between, I realized the story was missing 'the heart'. So I combined a memory of baking with my own Abuelita with that feeling where you think everything's going wrong, but you're still safe and loved and accepted as an imperfect child deserving of love. This was a big step in learning to write for kids. There needs to be some kind of heart or hook or something for kids to relate to.
I needed to add more tension! Here are some of the people who saw it and offered editing thoughts: critique partners, mentors, teachers from various courses and organizations, professional/industry critiquers, peers, and my mother*. And this jogged a memory of me breaking my mom's wedding plate while we were moving back in with my grandparents.
*For my second and third books, I did not have to take it so far and wide for editing. It took a lot for me to grow confident in my writing abilities! Also, sometimes your family doesn't know what makes a good children's book!
And that was the key! Once I added that broken plate, it all came together and we sold the manuscript to Charlesbridge in 2020, and it finally came out in August of 2022.
These days, my process for writing is more like a yes/no flowchart: outline or list, then a test draft in prose (does it work? yes/no), if no, a draft in lyrical language. When I think something's working, I'll exchange with a critique group (love/hate/boring?)... rinse repeat until it's feeling ready-ish enough to submit to my agent.