Put on your writing caps!
Now that you have an idea for the picture book, the emphasis for the next four weeks will be on writing the story. For the challenge, we’ll assume most of you are creating original text, but those of you illustrating existing folk tales for your portfolios, or working on nonfiction, or developing concept books, all need to be concerned with story—even a wordless picture book requires a shooting script.
How to write a story for children is beyond the scope of this challenge. There are excellent resources available, though—and, of course, the best training for writing picture books is to READ, READ, READ! Read current picture books and classics. Read prize-winners and family favorites. Read aloud! Read to kids if you have ’em. Conventional wisdom says you must read at least 100 picture books before you ever attempt to write one.
Join us at #kidlitart Thursday, January 13 (9 pm Eastern) for our writing pot-luck! Share your favorite picture book writing tips and tricks.
Some things to keep in mind:
• Picture book plots are usually linear, moving forward through time (no flashbacks).
• Subplots may be implied (or carried through the illustrations), but the text adheres to a simple, single plotline.
• Picture books must have a child as the main character—or a child stand-in (pet; furry woodland creature). An adult main character can work only if he/she exhibits childlike characteristics or behavior (Amelia Bedelia).
• Picture books address universal themes of childhood.
• Problems are solved by the main character, not by a wiser adult.
• Modern picture books are short: 500 words or less is not unusual.
• Beginning-middle-end structure results in a short story; a picture book plot contains tension that can be charted on a curve: rising action (exterior or interior) leading to a climax and quick resolution.
• Picture books most often use third-person point-of-view.
• Just as in a chapter book or novel, the main character should experience growth: change of attitude; newfound confidence; greater understanding, etc.
• Don’t be tempted to rhyme your text unless you’re willing to work to make the rhyme and meter perfect.
• There are exceptions to every “rule” about writing picture books.
Build your library:
How to Write a Children’s Picture Book: Vols. I, II & III , by Eve Heidi Bine-Stock
Volume I: Structure
Volume II: Word, Sentence, Scene, Story
Volume III: Figures of Speech
This series uses classic children’s books as examples to examine structure and grammatical building blocks.
How to Write a Children’s Book and Get It Published, by Barbara Seuling
Contains a useful section focused specifically on picture books.
How to Write and Illustrate Children’s Books and Get Them Published, edited by Treld Pelkey Bicknell and Felicity Trotman
Though dated in regard to some business details (first published in 1988), this book contains valuable insights into genres and styles, as well as solid writing advice.
Writing for Children & Teens: A Crash Course, by Cynthea Liu
A breezy intro to the full spectrum of children’s books, with pithy comments on mistakes to avoid.
How to Write a Children's Picture Book, by Darcy Pattison
Ebook based on the popular series of posts, "30 Days to a Stronger Picture Book," from Darcy’s writing blog, Fiction Notes.
Picture Writing, by Anastasia Suen
A unique approach to writing visually.
Worth a second (third and fourth) mention:
Writing with Pictures: How to Write and Illustrate Children’s Books, by Uri Shulevitz
The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children, by Nancy Lamb
Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide From Story Creation to Publication, by Ann Whitford Paul
Links to check out:
Chat schedule for “writing month”:
January 13: Writing Pot-Luck: Bring Your Best Tips and Tricks!
January 20: Special guest Tara Lazar!
January 27: Plot-driven or character-driven: which books are most memorable?
February 3: Who needs a plot? From “One, Two, Three” to Goodnight, Moon
#kidlitart chats are held every Thursday, at 9 pm Eastern.