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.
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
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