Saturday, June 19, 2010

How to Study, Analyze, or Dissect a Picture Book

How Can We Keep Our Manuscripts Out of the Slushpile?

By studying others that were considered to be gems! So how does one study, analyze, or dissect a picture book?

HOW TO STUDY A PICTURE BOOK || how to analyze other writers' works | what makes a story a gem

First, identify what makes a picture book work. What makes it a gem? In Make Your Picture Book Sparkle, by Peggy Tibbetts, she goes into detail on how the following elements help to make a great picture book: story, character, humor, imagination, emotion, and word play. She discusses how to write with each of these elements.

How to Analyze a Picture Book with a Story Board


10 Ways To Dissect a Picture Book

  1. Read, read, read. That should be obvious, but it's SOO important! We can't analyze anything if we never read picture books.
  2. Write, write, write. Write them all down, that is. The following sublist includes all what I write down about each book, before the actual analysis takes place.
    1. Title
    2. Author
    3. Illustrator
    4. Publisher
    5. Date
    6. Word Count
    7. Summary (often found in beginning of book on copyright page)
    8. Sparkle Element: my reaction to the story, how and why I like it, emotions I felt, etc. 
  3. Copy the book, strictly for PRACTICE only! Copying the "masters" (of those we like best, those we admire, those we aspire to be like) will help develop our own voice and the language of picture books.
  4. Copying by hand and typing work on opposite sides of the brain. To get more bang for your buck, especially on your absolute favorites, copy it twice. First, by hand, then type it.
  5. For those that aren't your favorites, just hand copy the first and last pages. This will give extra help for beginnings and endings. Still type the whole book. With beginnings and endings, try to take a closer look at the first and last paragraphs, and the first and last sentences.
  6. Write down your favorite part of the book. What scene is it? Copy the section to train your subconscious muse to pick up on those elements. Then imitate it by replacing each word with your own words, noun for noun, adverb for adverb, and so on. Casey McCormick describes how this works on her blogpost on writing exercises.
  7. After typing the whole text, try this exercise. Find all adverbs and adjectives and replace with a different one, just for fun. Again, Casey McCormick talks about how to do this exercise that she calls "Word Removal" which comes from Noah Lukeman's "The First Five Pages." There are lots of variations. Find nouns and verbs, too. When studying a picture book, maybe make a list of each type and see how many of each are used in each picture book studied. See if you can find a trend.
  8. Lastly, have a plan or a schedule. Here are two different approaches to try, one serious, and one less vigilant.
    • read three picture books a day
    • type one a day
    • study one a week
    • OR...
    • read three a week
    • type one a week
    • and study one a month
  9. With each book that you read, also list what makes it work, how is it held together or organized?  See powers of three post: seasons, journey, circular, alphabet, counting, threes, sevens, months, weeks, etc.
  10. Read your manuscript aloud to yourself and to others to test for read-aloud-ability. 

How to Analyze a Picture Book with a Story Board

1 comment:

  1. Great overview, Christie! Thanks for making it available to everyone.


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