04 Aug

Write the First Draft of a Picture Book

Write a Story

To write the first draft of a picture book text, just write a story. That’s is. Just like you would normally write any story. Keep in mind that you want it to be short and you’ll leae visual details to the illustrator, but, otherwise, write the story.

Don’t Worry About These 3 Things



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  1. Vocabulary. Picture book vocabulary doesn’t have to be limited, because usually an adult is reading the story to a child. Don’t limit yourself on this first draft.
  2. Style. Just relax and write.
  3. Length. Remember you’re writing a picture book, which implies you’ll write short. But how short doesn’t matter much on this first draft, unless you go over 10 typed double-spaced pages. Just write.

ACTION POINTS

Write.

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03 Aug

Putting the Picture in Picture Books

Picture Book Illustrations

Picture books are illustrated stories. What does that mean to the writer of the picture book text? The biggest difference between short stories and picture books is the illustrations. Magazine stories, for example, may have one or two illustrations for each story. Picture books have an illustration on each page: you must think visually when writing for this genre.

Thinking visually doesn’t mean adjectives; illustrators can fill in colors, background, clothing, and other details. Instead, concentrate on verbs; telling your story with pictures requires action. Unless a description is crucial to the story, cut it. Include actions that move the story along. Thoughts and dialogue may advance the plot, but they can’t be illustrated; talking heads make for boring illustrations.

Picture book stories find ways to make thoughts concrete. You get the auditory, tactile, kinesthetic, olfactory, and gustatory.

Think of it this way:
the illustrators get the visual details. But you get everything else, hearing, feeling, moving in space, taste and smell. Only include the visual details if it really makes a difference to the story; otherwise, leave it to the illustrator. Visual possibilities
In other words, you are providing visual possibilities, not visual directions. You will give the illustrator one or two choices for each double-page spread, and within that choice, you give the illustrator room to make professional choices.

Be careful, though, about what illustration possibilities you provide.
In my picture book, The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman, I had the characters visit Reno, Nevada, where they attend a rodeo and then, visit a casino and win $5000! I assumed that the illustrator would illustrate the rodeo. Searching for Oliver K. Woodman by Darcy Pattison. I wanted that rodeo illustration. I grew up hearing my Dad announce rodeos, and especially remember the barrel rides: “A pretty ride by a pretty little lady.”

Instead, we find Agnes, Maggie and Lucinda — and Oliver K. Woodman — at a gambling table. It’s a great illustration, but not what I really wanted! In the sequel, Searching for Oliver K. Woodman, I send the wooden woman, the P.I. searching for Oliver, to another rodeo. This time there is NO OTHER illustration possibility: I got my rodeo scene.

ACTION POINTS

Study relationship between art and text. Choose about five picture books and study each page. Think about why the illustrator chose the content of the art. Did the text demand something specific, or was the illustrator give lots of freedom in the illustrations?

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02 Aug

Picture book standards: 32 pages

Picture Book Structure

Picture books are almost always 32 pages. The reasons for this are physical: when you fold paper, eight pages folds smoothly into what’s called a signature, while any more results in a group of pages too thick to bind nicely. In addition, the 32 pages can all be printed on a single sheet of paper, making it cost-effective. In extremely rare cases, picture books may be 16, 24, 40 or 48 pages, all multiples of eight (a signature); but 32 pages is industry standard.

Francoise Bui of Doubleday Books, said, “We’ll do a longer book if the story needs it. The most likely time is if it’s a holiday or seasonal book, that we plan to give a bigger marketing push, and it needs those extra pages to tell the story. If I’ve acquired a story I really like, and if it needs extra pages, I’ll do it.”

There are variations: in my picture book, The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman, the illustrator, Joe Cepeda, takes 48 pages to tell the story. The text is letters or postcards, written by someone who gives a lift to Oliver, a wooden man, then writes back to Uncle Ray to report on Oliver’s progress across the nation from South Carolina to California. There are fourteen letters for fourteen spreads. Cepeda is adding wordless spreads between each letter to show Oliver actually traveling.

So, you may see board books at 16 or 24 pages, and picture books at 32, 40 or 48 pages. But the gold standard for picture books is 32 pages.


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Are you ready to jump into writing a picture book? Before you start writing, take this simple quiz:
QUIZ: ARE YOU READY TO WRITE and SELL A CHILDREN’S PICTURE BOOK?

  1. What is the biggest mistake you can make in submitting?
  2. Who is the audience of a children’s picture book? Hint: It’s not just kids.
  3. Are there restrictions on the vocabulary you use in a picture book?
  4. Do I have to write in rhyme? Do manuscripts written in rhyme sell better?
  5. Do EPUB books have to the same length as printed books?

If you’re not sure about a couple of these questions, Pattison’s ebook, How To Write A Children’s Picture Book can help. Add to CartBuy now for instant access.


OPTIONS FOR LAYOUT

When talking about the page layout for a picture book story, there are two options. First, you can look at each page separately. Second, you can talk about double-page spreads; when a picture book is opened flat, the two facing pages are often illustrated as one. Thus, in a 32 page book, you would have a single page (the right hand side of the book), fifteen double-page spreads, and a single page (the left hand side of the book). Decorative end papers, which are glued to the boards, often enclose these.

In those 32 pages, there are usually “front matter” pages consisting of a title page, a half-title page, and a copyright page. In single pages, this may take 4-5 pages. In double-page spreads, it’s the first single page and one or two spreads. The text, then has 27-28 pages or 14 spreads, plus a last single page.

SHORT STORY OR PICTURE BOOK?

Concentrating on the skeleton of the picture book may seem boring or unnecessary, but it is one of the two main differences between short stories and picture books. One mistake made by beginners is to have too many or too few pages to fit into this format. Why can’t the publisher ignore the standard page limits and just print the size book needed for a particular story? Again, the reasons are physical: the way the paper folds and standard sizes of paper for printing. Literary agent Tracey Adams, literary agent, says, “It’s definitely easiest to market a picture book meant to be the standard 32 pages.”

QUESTION: 32 pages? Please Explain More

It isn’t clear to me the relationship between the pages of a picture book and the pages of typed text that the author writes. Does an author just write text and the publisher divides it into 32 pages? Or should the author divide the text and show the page breaks when submitting the manuscript.

Answer: 32 pages of finished book, 5 (or fewer) pages of manuscript text. The picture book has 32 pages, but a picture book text has five (or fewer) pages of manuscript text.
Book. There will be short segments of text on each page (or double-page spread).

Manuscript. If you translate that to standard manuscript pages, that’s 5 pages or less of text. When you send in the mss to a publisher, you send it in standard manuscript format (5 pages or so). When the text is laid out for the picture book, the editor, art director and illustrator will divide it into the segments that go on each page.

You will see me suggest that you divide your text into 14-28 segments, anticipating how it will be laid out in a picture book. That is strictly to help the author revise and polish the text. When you send in the mss, it should be in standard mss format.

Does ePub Change the 32-Page Illustrated Picture Book?

Yes and no. While the gold standard for printed books is still 32-pages, ebook length can and does vary. There are two ways to publish a children’s book as an ebook. First it can become an app which is downloaded onto the desktop or a tablet. The problem with this is that apps usually have more interactivity than a simple picture book. You can add interactivity by having the app read the story to the child, having hotspots in the illustrations, adding music, etc. But then, is it a children’s picture book or is it an app?

The second way is to create an ePub version. Because there are no printing presses, it’s possible to have a 100-page or a 4-page children’s picture book. The problem comes in keeping the image and text together. As ePub standards evolve and as more devices become compatible with ePub standards, the better it gets. Right now, one good option is to create an image for each page that contains both illustration and text. In other words, keep the images and text together by preformatted the book.

While it’s possible to go over or under the 32-pages, it is often best to keep to this standard. A 4-page picture book is too slim and not feasible; likewise a 100-page is too long. Customers are used to the 32 page length–even if they can’t tell you an exact count of pages–and it seems a good value. Also, if there’s any intention of creating an accompanying print version at any point, you should just stick with 32 pages. Otherwise, you’ll have to reformat to fit the print requirements. So, think ahead about the formats you’ll eventually use for the story.

ACTION POINTS


Count pages. Visit a library or bookstore and go through 10 picture books counting pages. You’ll find some variety, which comes from whether or not the end papers are counted as pages or not. Count pages in some board books (the cardboard books for babies and toddlers). How often do you find a longer picture book like The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman

Type up a manuscript. Choose a favorite published children’s book and type it up as a manuscript in standard manuscript format. This helps you visualize the difference between a manuscript and a published book.

Need specific help? See the Table of Contents below

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Picture Book Basics

Picture Books standards: 32 pages
Putting the Picture in Picture Books
Write the First Draft of a Picture Book
The Dual Audience for Picture Books
Did you Write a Picture Book or Something Else?
Check Your Picture Book’s Story Arc
Shakespeare Helps You Write a Better Picture Book
Picture Book Settings
Options for Picture Book Characters
Playing With Words for Picture Books
Page 32
How to Mock Up a Picture Book
5 Ways to Make The Reader Turn the Page
Revise the Picture Book Text

Specific Types of Picture Books

The Biggest Mistake in Submitting a Picture Book
What Kids Think Is Funny
10 Suggestions for Picture Book Titles
12 Picture Book Topics to Avoid
The Illustrator Doesn’t Tell YOU What to Do
Picture Books: Folk Tales or Modern Stories?
How To Write a Rhyming Picture book
How to Write a Picture Book Mystery
How to Write a Picture Book Biography
How to Write an ABC Book
How to Write a Creative Non-Fiction Picture Book
How to Write a Poetry Collection Picture Book
How to Create a Read Aloud Friendly Picture Book
Voice for Picture Books
Messages, Morals and Lessons in Picture Books
Effective Picture Book Subtitles

This book gives you CONFIDENCE.

  • Confidence that you have met publishing standards.
  • Confidence that you can write in any picture book genre, from ABC books to rhymed books to picture book biographies.
  • Confidence that you’ve written the strongest story possible.
  • Confidence that your story will receive strong consideration at the publisher of your choice.
01 Aug

30 Days to a Stronger Picture Book

Fiction for children, especially younger children, comes in the form of picture books. This series of 30 posts explains how to write and edit the basic picture book, and goes on to discuss specific types of picture books.


Add to CartHow to Write a Children's Picture Book, only $8.99
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This book gives you CONFIDENCE.

  • Confidence that you have met publishing standards.
  • Confidence that you can write in any picture book genre, from ABC books to rhymed books to picture book biographies.
  • Confidence that you’ve written the strongest story possible.
  • Confidence that your story will receive strong consideration at the publisher of your choice.

Picture Book Basics

Picture Books standards: 32 pages
Putting the Picture in Picture Books
Write the First Draft of a Picture Book
The Dual Audience for Picture Books
Did you Write a Picture Book or Something Else?
Check Your Picture Book’s Story Arc
Shakespeare Helps You Write a Better Picture Book
Picture Book Settings
Options for Picture Book Characters
Playing With Words for Picture Books
Page 32
How to Mock Up a Picture Book
5 Ways to Make The Reader Turn the Page
Revise the Picture Book Text

Specific Types of Picture Books

The Biggest Mistake in Submitting a Picture Book
What Kids Think Is Funny
10 Suggestions for Picture Book Titles
12 Picture Book Topics to Avoid
The Illustrator Doesn’t Tell YOU What to Do
Picture Books: Folk Tales or Modern Stories?
How To Write a Rhyming Picture book
How to Write a Picture Book Mystery
How to Write a Picture Book Biography
How to Write an ABC Book
How to Write a Creative Non-Fiction Picture Book
How to Write a Poetry Collection Picture Book
How to Create a Read Aloud Friendly Picture Book
Voice for Picture Books
Messages, Morals and Lessons in Picture Books
Effective Picture Book Subtitles

Order now for instant access!

Add to CartHow to Write a Children's Picture Book, only $8.99
Buy the ebook now! $8.99
Instant Access.

QUIZ: ARE YOU READY TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S PICTURE BOOK?

  1. How many pages are in a typical children’s picture book?
  2. Who is the audience of a children’s picture book? Hint: It’s not just kids.
  3. Are there restrictions on the vocabulary you use in a picture book?
  4. Do I have to write in rhyme? Do manuscripts written in rhyme sell better?
  5. Do EPUB books have to the same length as printed books?

If you’re not sure about a couple of these questions, this ebook can give you the CONFIDENCE you need.

01 Aug

10 Suggestions for Picture Book Titles

Once you have a draft, it’s a good idea to make a stab at a title. This will likely change as you revise and, in the end, the publisher may prefer a different title. But this is a good place to start.

BRAINSTORMING TITLES

My best technique for finding a good title is to make lists. Long list. Sometimes up to fifty or more titles, trying to find just the right phrase. Try some of these strategies as you brainstorm titles.

  1. Use Characters’ names
  2. Include verbs or strong action words
  3. Use a metaphor
  4. Find a catchy phrase from the text
  5. Rhyme the title
  6. Play off a famous saying
  7. Include emotion
  8. Use something concrete
  9. Stick with the simple
  10. Be unexpected

ACTION POINTS

Write 5-10 titles for your story. Choose the one you like best and use as a working title.

Find this Helpful? Read the Complete Series as an Ebook:

How to Write a Children’s Picture Book Available Now!

The 30 Days to a Stronger Picture Book series has been collected into a Fiction Notes Ebook.

How to Write a Children's Picture Book by Darcy Pattison

Available on

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