Writer on a Horse
And a Dog

The world looks better from the back of a horse and the roads of life are easier with a good dog beside you.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Bad Blogger... I'm going to try to do better

back about ten years ago I wrote a monthly question and answer article for an online critique group.  I've decided I'm going to share these articles with you on my blog.  I'm going to do one a week for the next several weeks.  Here is the first one.

 Picture This

I’m going to address questions about writing picture books. Picture books are the hardest genre to write because you have to paint a story using words and pictures.

For example, Josie is your main character. Her classmates make fun of her freckles. Readers need to read how this makes Josie unhappy. They don’t need to read that she has red hair, blue eyes and fair complexion. All of these details can be shown through pictures. The freckles are the main theme, not her other features.

Now to the questions!

1. How long should a picture book be and should I indicate page breaks?

The standard rule for a picture book length is 32 pages. Picture books for younger children can be 24 pages and ones for older children can be 48 pages, but these fall in the story picture book genre. These numbers include front page introductions and the blank back page.  A picture book needs to have a word count of 800 words or less.

Never put page breaks in a picture book manuscript. Quoting from the book How to Write and Sell Children’s Picture Books by Jean E. Karl, “You should not indicate pages as you see them or indicate what you think the pictures should be. A text that offers no possibility for picture variety is nothing but abstract talk and will not work as a picture book.”

2. I’m not an artist, but I have pencil illustrations for my picture book. Should I include them with my manuscript?

This is a hard question to answer. I can only tell you what the Children's Writer's Market says about submitting your own illustrations. If you are not a professional artist do not submit illustrations with the manuscript. In the cover letter you can tell the publisher that you have illustrations sketched and would be willing to send them in for consideration.

I would like to share an eye opening experience I had this spring at the SCBWI Mid-South chapter writing conference. I paid the fee for a professional critique of my best picture book manuscript. After reading it, the editor stated it was a beautifully written magazine article but not a picture book. Seeing my crushed look, she pointed out the details in my story that could have been related to the reader in the pictures instead of the text.

Go to your library, local book store, or get on the Internet and find some comprehensive books on picture book writing, then follow their professional advice. It could save you a lot of time and wasted effort.

Remember that like all manuscripts, picture books need a beginning, middle and end.  The main character needs a problem and they need to solve it by the end of the story.  

just a few sites that will help you write a picture book