Note: You may sign up for the #kidlitart picture book dummy challenge through midnight, Eastern time, on January 16. You do not have to be registered to participate in the challenge--only to be eligible for the Agent Pitch Contest. Click here for sign-up and FAQs.
The following post is an edited version of last year's Step 2 post, which is also included in the #PBDummy ebook compiled by Wendy Martin.
DRAFTING THE STORY
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, working on
nonfiction, or developing concept books, all need to be concerned with
story—even a wordless picture book requires a script!
#12x12in2012 challenge to draft one picture book a month during 2012. If so, consider this your February assignment!
write a story for children is beyond the scope of the picture book dummy challenge. There
are excellent resources available, though—and the best advice 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 attempt to write
Some things to keep in mind:
• Picture book plots are usually linear; they move forward through time (no flashbacks).
• Subplots may be implied (or carried through the illustrations), but the text adheres to a simple, single plot line.
Picture books must have a child as the main character—a child or a child
stand-in (a pet, furry woodland creature, etc.). An adult main character can
work only if he/she exhibits childlike characteristics or behavior
• 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
• 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
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.
Writing with Pictures: How to Write and Illustrate Children’s Books, by Uri Shulevitz
A classic and still one of the best introductions to picture book creation.
The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children, by Nancy Lamb
Not specifically about picture books, but a fantastic reference for anyone writing for children.
Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide From Story Creation to Publication, by Ann Whitford Paul
One of the newer entries in this category, and fast becoming a favorite.
Links to check out: