Picture Book Writing Kit! by
Jan Peck and David Davis
Basics of Writing a Picture Book- A
published children's picture book is usually 32 pages. The front
matter (title page, dedication, copyright) takes up the first few
pages. Your story begins on pages 3, 4, or 5. You do NOT need to
find an illustrator. You are cutting your chances of being
published in half if you submit an already illustrated story.
Most picture book texts are under 1000 words. Send your manuscript in
regular manuscript format or poetry format, if in rhyme.
Dummy It Up, Genius-Use 8 pages of
paper, fold in half and number 1-32. This will serve as your
picture book dummy. See how your text lays out in that format.
Pay attention to page turns. Does your reader wonder what will
happen next? Check your pacing, do you have too much text for one scene
or one page? Picture in your mind at least 15 double-page spread
illustrations for your book. Also do a storyboard. (See
Picture Book Characters- think
in the Hat--what makes you remember the character? Are they zany,
amazing, funny, witty, cute, heart-touching, smart? Study
characters of other famous picture books.
Picture Book Plots- A good
book starts with a hook and builds to a climax. Even concept
books often follow a story-line. As you read successful picture
books, look for plot patterns. Look for cumulative or chain
plots, circular plots, question and answer formats, logical sequences,
and time-frame plots.
Poetic Tools of the Trade- rhythm,
rhyme, repetition, parallel structure, refrains, alliteration,
onomatopoeia, similes and metaphors, word plays, word inventions,
parody, funny sayings, and reader interaction.
Read it OUT LOUD!-picture books
are made to be read aloud. Hear how your story flows. Does
your tongue get twisted? Have someone else read your book to
you. Make a note where they stammer or stumble.
Read and Analyze: Type in and
study successful picture books. What is the hook? What’s the
plot? Who are the characters? Count the words? What poetic tools
are utilized? Look for books similar to what you write. Who
is the publisher? Who was the editor who bought the book? The
editor is sometimes listed in acknowledgments or on the dedication
page. Go to bookstores and see the current bestsellers.
Picture Book Themes-Like all great
books, great children's picture books have a strong, universal
theme. What does your story mean? Are there levels to your
book? What is the underlying message? But don’t be preachy!
Great picture books give us something deep, something of value to take
away with us.
Critique Groups: Try to form a
critique group that meets once a week. Find others who are
serious about getting published and associate with them. They
will become your best friends and family.
Picture Book Story Board
Click here to download a storyboard page that will help you to lay out
your picture book.