Friday, June 17, 2011

Writing a Picture Book is Hard Work

Today I'd like to welcome Nancy Stewart, guest blogger, and author of One Pelican at a Time. She shares her insight with us on the act of writing picture books from beginning to end. Welcome!

How to Analyze a Picture Book with a Story Board


Yep, I’ll admit it.  Hard work.  That’s what it is.  You have to think as a child, put yourself in a child’s place and always be aware of the child within yourself.  That’s the tricky bit.

And then, of course, once you’ve decided on a wonderful, fun and thought provoking plot, one that thousands of kids will want to buy and keep forever, it’s time to put together that puzzle called a children’s book.  It needs to be fewer than one thousand words and less really with the new generation of books for the younger kid.  Keep it short, and keep it simple while making it a fine fully developed story from which children will learn and grow. 

Not only that.  Oh, no.  Words count and not just in numbers.  They must be lyrical, fluid, fun words for children to say.  They need to be words kids love to repeat over and over and over.  They need to be words children will want to remember, so they can be read to caregivers.  It makes no difference, of course, whether the children can really read or not.

That brings you to the revision process.  Oh, yes.  Just when you’re beginning to feel fine about the manuscript, you happily and hopefully flaunt it at your critique group.  “Picked apart” is the phrase that comes to mind.  “Just a tiny change here” and a “this might be better there.”  Who knew?

Next morning, armed with coffee, lots of it, you rip into the now imperfect manuscript.  You try to make sense of all the tough direct critiques and the gentle ones that apologetically murmur, “just a modest suggestion.”  Bit by bit, the story reshapes, funnily enough, stronger than before.  Huh.  Maybe they were right.  Always knew you liked that group.

And then, finally, you have a manuscript that can stand up to being called a book.  The time has come for it to fly on its own.  And it does, right to an agent or publisher. 

When you get the word that this agent or that publisher wants it, everything else but absolute joy is forgotten, at least until the next manuscript.  But you’re stronger this time.  This time you know what to expect, and you’re ready.  Yeah, piece of cake.

How to Analyze a Picture Book with a Story Board


One Pelican at a Time has been on Amazon Bestsellers for Children List for 13 weeks.
Forthcoming books:  Bella Saves the Beach, Sea Turtle Summer and Katrina and Winter: Partners in Courage

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