7 Absolute Musts of Writing a Picture Book

 

Picture books play an absolute vital and pivotal role in the lives of children. There are numerous studies that show children who are read picture books from birth up to, and including while still going to school, are smarter and have more empathy for others – yes – they are kinder! And thankfully, there is never a shortage of authors who are passionate about writing picture books. As an experienced teacher of 25 years, I have personally observed the power of books. By 8 years of age, there is a notable difference between children who have been read to at home, and those who have not.

Importance of reading to children
Children prefer real books rather than screens
Why reading the same book repeatedly is good for kids

After 5 years of working as a publisher and book designer with picture book authors, I’d like to share 7 points that will help authors along in their journey:

1. Writing a picture book is not as easy as it seems. You need to read lots and lots of picture books so you can internalize what writing a children picture book story is about. And there is a certain knack to writing a successful picture book. You will also develop your own individual style and voice.

2. Your story must have a beginning, middle and end – also known as a story arc.

3. There must be a problem that needs to be solved. If there’s no problem, there’s no story!

4. Don’t tell kids what to think with your writing. It’s the biggest turn off for children. Kids are clever, and feel a great sense of achievement when they understand the gist of the story without you telling them. You want kids to make an emotional feel good connection to your book, so they want to read it again and again.

5. Don’t talk down to kids. Build them up. Use those interesting words that will inspire!

6. Less words can often have more impact.

7. Illustrations are vitally important – they also tell the story – are there words in your writing you can leave out that can be shown in the illustration?

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Traditionally Published vs Independently Published. Which to Choose?

If you’re not quite sure about the difference between traditionally published and independently published, read this article by Joanna Penn. It provides a good description of both.

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Preparing Your Picture Book to Traditionally Publish

• Write your story. Edit, rewrite, read it out loud, rewrite.
• Put it away for a while. When you return to it, you will see it with new eyes. You will find bits of it that you love, and others that simply don’t work.
• Write a final version of your story, then send it to an editor. This is a vital step for you to have the best version of your story. Don’t be surprised if you need to do some adjustments and rewrites. All authors, no matter how experienced or famous they are, always have to rewrite to make their work shine.
• Polish your final version …
• Research which traditional publishers you would like to send your manuscript to before you send it off, and ensure that you follow their guidelines (do you need an agent or not? Are they closed for submissions? Do they publish picture books?) Make sure you format your manuscript to their specifications.

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Preparing Your Picture Book to Indie Publish 

Authors have a bubbling enthusiasm about their story. And rightly so. However, there is a series of steps to follow, even with the self-publishing of your book. If you are investing in publishing a book that the eyes of the world will read, it makes sense to educate yourself about how to go about it. This is what it looks like:

1. Story
Writing your story is exactly the same as writing it with the intention of securing a traditional publishing contract. Independent publishing does not mean lesser quality stories, and it never, ever should be.

• Write your story. Edit, rewrite, read it out loud, rewrite.
• Put it away for a while. When you return to it, you will see it with new eyes. You will find bits of it that you love, and others that simply don’t work.
• Write a final version of your story, then send it to an editor. This is a vital step for you to have the best version of your story. Don’t be surprised if you need to do some adjustments and rewrites. All authors, no matter how experienced or famous they are, always have to rewrite to make their work shine.
• Polish your final version …

2. Storyboard

32page-TitleDedication-DebbieOhi-2-300 inkygirl credit
storyboard by inkygirl.com

The storyboard is a pivotal stage of development of your book. The impact of your story hinges on your storyboard, and the placement of the page turn in keeping the attention of your readers so they are invested in your story. The storyboard is also the magic key for your illustrator to bring your story to life through the gift of their creative artwork. Have you nailed the timing of your page turn? If you’re not sure, you can find out here.

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3. Illustrations

The final and important part of the journey of a book is the illustrations. Before your illustrator begins the final illustrations – it is imperative they know the size of your book (you’ll need to discuss these major details with your publisher, or the printer you have chosen). Your illustrator also needs to know:

• About page bleed
• Not to place major components of illustrations in the middle of a page spread, where parts may be lost in the spine binding of the book, or the image doesn’t align correctly due to variables during the printing process.

If you decide to independently publish, send your manuscript to your chosen indie publisher/self-publishing company, and they should guide you from there.

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And remember, whatever your journey is with your story – don’t go it alone. Connect with other authors, or join a writing group, network. Authors love to help each other out.

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Julieann Wallace
(Dip T, B. Ed, Multi-Published Author, Illustrator, Tea Ninja, Cadbury Chocolate Annihilator, CEO of Lilly Pilly Publishing)

www.facebook.com/julieannwallaceonethousandwords/
www.julieannwallaceauthor.com

Julieann is a member of:

6 thoughts on “7 Absolute Musts of Writing a Picture Book

  1. Dimity Powell April 16, 2018 / 1:20 am

    Fantastic post thank you, Julieann 🙂

    Like

  2. Giuseppe Poli April 17, 2018 / 9:56 am

    That’s great Julieann! Succinct and perfect. If only the journey was as quick as this read 🙂 Thanks!

    Like

    • Julieann Wallace April 17, 2018 / 9:56 pm

      Thanks, Giuseppe. 🙂

      Like

    • Julieann Wallace April 20, 2018 / 3:03 am

      Thanks Maria 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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