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Overcoming Common Pitfalls in Picture Book Writing

Posted by Joy Moore on November 22, 2015 at 7:15 AM

1. Focus. When the writer does not know what the story is really about it causes meanderings. It causes you to lose the POV. It is fine if you don’t know what the story is about when you first begin to write it. But, you do need to know when you send it out. If story is tight it allows you wonderful opportunities to put in details and not be generic.

 

2. Know your audience. Children want to read about issues that affect them. They was a character they can identify with. They want to read about other kids and their problems. The story needs to be told from a childlike POV.

 

3. If the problem is a scary one. If the issue or tension is too difficult for the child to read about, use animals. It will be easier for the child to read about an animal going through the difficulty than a child.

 

4. Leave hints in the ‘words’ for the illustrator rather than giving illustrator notes. Trust the illustrator. They will do an amazing job and often go beyond your expectations.

 

5. Empower children. Children are used to having adults telling them what to do. Children often feel vulnerable. Have the character in the story solve their own problem. If the child does not solve their own problem you will have a hard time selling you book. If you have a parent in your story make sure you really need them there. Otherwise kill the parent. Or make the parent childlike.

 

6. Show don’t tell. You will lose the POV of the story. You lose the opportunity for character development. You allow the reader to write your story for you. Think of what you want to tell. Think of a scene to show the feeling. Then act the scene out. Often times a thesaurus will help. Using specific verbs will help. Make the scene dramatic. Build the scene moment by moment.

 

7. Openings. You must hook the editor in the first paragraph or you are dead meat.

 

8. Language. Think of the story as a long poem. Show rhythm in the language. Make it easy to read out loud. Give it musicality. First work out the plot. After the pot is finished spend a good amount of time on the language.

 

9. Tension. Make the tension go from hard to harder to hardest. Or funny to funnier to funniest. Three times have them fail. Give them a dark moment. Go to the unexpected place or an exaggerated place. Have the character react to it in a strong dramatic way. Then the resolution.

 

10. Never send out a manuscript without making a dummy first.

 

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1 Comment

Reply Claudine@CarryUsOffBooks
5:09 AM on November 27, 2015 
Oops, thought I left a comment here previously. I've been re-reading Ann Whitford Paul's book on writing picture books and she certainly has many good tips!