Tag Archives: children’s picture book

11 May

How to Write a Children’s Picture Book


You CAN be a Children’s Book Author

Children's Book Author, Darcy PattisonI’m Darcy Pattison, and I’m a children’s book author.
Wouldn’t you love to say that about yourself?
Wouldn’t you love to be the one signing books for kids and families?

Twenty years ago, I decided to write a children’s picture book. I had four kids and we read nightly, hundreds of children’s books. I thought I knew what was picture books were all about. Boy, was I wrong!

I wish I had had a writing teacher who could have explained the ins and outs of writing and selling picture books. And that’s why I decided to help others.

You CAN be published in eight languages

Here are some of my picture books and they are available in eight languages.

Your Biggest Fear: Rejection or Regret?

Because I write, just like you, I understand the fears at the beginning of a writing career. What is your biggest fear?
Not mine. Instead, I fear getting to the end of my life and looking back and realize that I never tried. I fear Regret and I fear it much, much more than I fear Rejection.

I’ll have to say, though, that rejection DOES hurt. Unlike regret, I can help with rejection. With the right information and exercises, your story can improve and catch an editor’s eye.

You CAN Get Acceptance Letters and Contract Offers

The first thing you need to change those rejection letters into acceptance letters is knowledge. The How to Write a Picture Book Ebook explains the kinds of picture books, how to write a picture book and how to sell it.

Complete Table of Contents

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

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

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

Available on

28 Apr

How To Write A Picture Book: Resources

12 Updated Resources for 2011

  1. State of the industry. First, a basic question: Are picture books dead? Not according to Karen Springen and PW.
    Don’t Write the Obit For Picture Books Yet, By Karen Springen, Dec 12, 2010
  2. Writing Encouragement. Natl Pic Book Writing Week May 1-7, 2011

    National Picture Book Writing Week is a take off on the National Novel Writing Month and encourages writers to work on children’s picture book manuscripts.

  3. Basic Resources for Writing Children’s Picture Books

  4. 30 Days to a Stronger Picture Book. Children’s picture book author, Darcy Pattison has 30 posts about how-to write a children’s picture book. Answers questions like, where do I find an illustrator? (You don’t! See why.) This is also available as an ebook.

  5. Getting Started: The Basics of Children’s Writing and Illustrating, by Harold Underdown
    Introductory information for people wanting to get published as a children’s book writer or illustrator in the United States, by former editor.
  6. Picture Book Editing Checklist
  7. Authors on How-to Write a Children’s Picture Book

  8. So You Want to Write a Picture Book–advice from author Mem Fox.
  9. Nancy Antle on Writing Children’s Literature: Interview about Dos and Don’ts of Writing Picture Books.
  10. Philip Bell: Capturing Childhood Magic With Picture Books

    Updated Information on Self Publishing a Picture Book

  11. Why I’ve Switched to CreateSpace for Picture Books, by Aaron Shepard

    Long-time self-publisher has insider knowledge about various POD options and explains why he’s switching to Amazon’s CreateSpace.

  12. How to Write a Rhyming Picture Book

  13. How To Write a Rhyming Picture Book and Get it Published — Part 1: A Writer’s Perspective.
  14. How To Write a Rhyming Picture Book and Get it Published — Part 2: A Publisher’s Perspective.
  15. How To Write a Rhyming Picture Book and Get It Published — Part 3: A Reader’s Perspective.

  16. Write a Rhyming Picture Book blog article, by author Patricia Thomas

Other Posts about Picture Books on Fiction Notes
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13 Nov

Simple Narrative Arcs, 2

Narrative Arc in Less Than 100 Words: Example 2

Very simple picture books still have a narrative arc, even though the word count is extremely small. Yesterday, we looked at an example of a great simple narrative in My Friend, Rabbit. Today, here’s a look at a narrative arc in 80 words (with the help of some illustrations), as it appears in A Splendid Friend, Indeed by Suzanne Bloom. This book was named a Theodor Seuss Geisel Beginning Reader Award Honor Book in 2006.

Narrative Arc in 32 pages, 98 words

Here’s a great example of a narrative arc in only 98 words. Read More

12 Nov

Simple Narrative Arcs, 1

Narrative Arc in Less Than 100 Words: Example 1

Very simple picture books still have a narrative arc, even though the word count is extremely small. Here’s a look at a narrative arc in 80 words (with the help of some illustrations), as it appears in My Friend, Rabbit, by Eric Rohmann, winner of the 2003 Caldecott Award for Best Illustrations in a children’s book for the year.

Narrative Arc in 32 pages, 80 words

Here’s a great example of a narrative arc in only 80 words. Read More

19 Jun

Revising for Audience

I’m writing a picture book that I know should work. But it’s not.

Consider the Picture Book Audience

Part of the problem with this story is that it’s set in a commercial kitchen and I have a kid who wants to cook. Critiquers tell me that the writing is great, the kid is great, but they wonder about that kid in a commercial kitchen.

Wouldn’t it violate child labor laws?
Wouldn’t the kid be in danger of getting burned?
Would a kid even WANT to be a cook? Why?
How old is this kid anyway?
Why is the kid even in this restaurant, so he gets hooked on cooking? Maybe, it’s his uncle’s restaurant and his parents work and he has to go over there after school and study.


Obviously, the adult audience for this story doesn’t connect. What about the kid audience?

At nine or ten, I was baking birthday cakes — from scratch — for my six brothers and sisters. One of the few dissenters in the group of critiquers says that her kids LOVE to make her coffee (Obviously, she lives in the great NW.) It just seems natural to me that a kid would want to cook! I’m convinced the story will work, if I can get around the adult objections.

And I do understand the objections. And I will address the objections. But it will mean starting from scratch and reconsidering both audiences for picture books, the adult and the child.

Research, then Revise

I decided to research. I’ve read through How I Learned to Cook, edited by Kimberly Witherspoon and Peter Meehan. This fascinating book is first-person accounts from some of the world’s greatest chefs on how they fell in love with cooking as a way of life. How I learned to cook

Many of the accounts are about a chef’s young adult years, or about some mistake s/he made during chef school or at a first job. But a couple were about falling in love with food and cooking at an early age. I’m also doing free-writes about why I liked cooking as a nine year old. And I’m reaffirming what is the heart of the story for me, remembering why I wanted to write this story.

A new draft will come. And it will be better.

12 Jun

Shrunken Picture Book

How I Shrunk my Picture Book Manuscript – and Why I’ll Do It Again!

by Lee Wind

At a schmooze of the SCBWI Tri-Regions of Southern California, discussion ranged far and wide, pulling info and tips from many sources. Lee Wind showed a shrunken manuscript of a picture book, complete with glitter, colors and stickers. The report says, “It helped him look at pacing, consistency, internal and external arcs…”

I originally developed the Shrunken Manuscript Technique to help writers see the overall structure of a novel. Here, it shrinks a picture book to a couple pages. I wondered how this is different from using a thumbnail layout, so I asked Lee to explain.

Shrink a 530 word picture book manuscript? But it’s already so short!

I wondered if I would actually learn anything at all from the exercise.

I decided to try it anyway, so I could discuss it at the schmooze on revision that I was co-coordinating, having read about the idea, among other places, here at Darcy’s amazing blog!

I made the font size 6pt, changed the margins so all the text would be in a two inch wide column down the left side, and sat down with the printout like an enthusiastic kindergartner with stickers,
highlighters, and glitter dots.

It came out to three pages long. I taped them together, took a ruler and drew a black line where I imagined page breaks.

Shrunken Picture Books, Photo by Rita Crayon Huang

Shrunken Picture Books, Photo by Rita Crayon Huang

And then I got out the pink highlighter. I drew a square around the
scenes I thought were really GREAT. As you can see, I had three in the beginning, and six at the end, and NOTHING but NOTHING in the middle. (the very bottom was a “key” for myself to explain what all my symbols meant.)

Then I got out these cool pink glitter dots. I put those on scenes
where I got “goosebumps” – scenes that really packed an emotional punch. I had two in the beginning. A big stretch of NOTHING in the middle. And then three scattered at the end.

I was starting to see a pattern.

Then I took out my “tiger” stickers (you know those return address
labels you get for free with nonprofit mailings – the ones with the
photos of wildlife by your name? They’re the perfect size to cut out
and use for this!)

And I put tiger stickers on every scene my antagonist (bad guys)
showed up. There they were, in the beginning and in the end.

I did more stickers, and quickly discovered that the part of my story
that was “working” was actually NOT the part of the story I wanted to emphasize. My “real” main character, in my mind, didn’t even show up in dialog until, um… page 4. See in the photo, that scene that starts off the middle, with absolutely NO pink box, or glitter dot, or tiger sticker? That’s where my “real” main character took center

Yikes! I was telling the WRONG character’s story.

I also put in stuff about locations, to make sure there were varied
enough possibilities for the illustrator, but really, once I figured out that I needed to re-do the story so it really was the story of my
younger character, I was itching to do a complete re-write.

I think if I had just done a list of my scenes (like an outline) and
worked from that, without shrinking the actual manuscript, I could
have missed this entirely, because my main character – in my mind- was present in the first three scenes, but as an observer. Having the actual manuscript with dialog and everything right there made me
realize she wasn’t really the focus of the beginning of the book, and
that’s a problem I might not have seen so clearly without shrinking
the manuscript.

So, was it useful? Absolutely.

Would I do it again? I’m getting my highlighter and stickers out
right now. Time to shrink the next draft!

Thanks for coming along with me on this virtual shrunken manuscript
journey. And Darcy, thank you for the opportunity to share my
experience with your readers!


ps- Appreciation to Rita Crayon Huang for the awesome photo of me
holding up my shrunken picture book manuscript at our schmooze on

Lee Wind is a writer who blogs about Gay Teen Books, Culture and
Politics at “I’m Here. I’m Queer. What the Hell do I Read?

10 Jun


Re-Reading: The Basic Revision Strategy

I’m always amazed at how much the revision process depends on re-reading what you wrote.

It’s an obvious statement, of course. Yet, when I ask people about their revision process, re-reading is seldom mentioned. It’s one of those assumed things.

Suggestions for Re-reading to Re-envision

Reading aloud

  • Re-read an entire section, not just half a page. One editor cautioned against re-reading just half a page, because you don’t get a sense of how the revision flows with the rest of the story. It’s easy to repeat a word or phrase, to change tone, or to get slightly off-voice (like a singer gets off-key). Take it from the top of the novel or the top of the chapter; for picture books under 500 words, read the whole thing again.
  • Single space the mss and print it out. This often helps me to see and hear the mss differently. Play with different fonts and print it out. Do you have a character who is feminine and delicate? Print her chapter in a script font; or, to contrast, print it in a harsh, upright font.
  • Read out loud. OK. I mutter out loud. My husband is self-employed and we own an office building, so I have an office there myself. If I read out loud, it would bother others. So, I mutter out loud. Or, I put on earphones and use a software program that reads it out loud to me. (Actually, this is a good reminder: I need to use the earphones/read to me option more!) Or, I go home and read it out loud. Or, go to a park. Muttering isn’t as good as reading aloud, because you don’t get the real flow of the novel or picture book.

Someone once asked me how many times I had read through a novel. Who knows? More times than I can count, I’ve read every word. It’s the basis of all good revisions.

22 May


Simplify Your Picture Book Story

I’m currently revising a picture book and my major goal is to simplify the story.

Simple Steps to Revision

Simple Steps to Revision

  • Why simplify the story? At 1200 words, the picture book text is way too long. I needed to cut it about in half. Why? Sue Edwards has just been reading 50 picture books in a short amount of time – something you should do at least once a year if you write picture books – and she reports that “. . .short sells. I ran into very few longer books.” Simplified = Sales. Good enough reason.
  • Omit Major Character. In fact, this version of the story had already simplified by leaving out a major character. It meant a total reworking of the story, but it flowed much smoother.
  • Cut the conflict in half and expand what’s left. Given that 600 words is a worthy goal, what could I do? I took the first half of the story and expanded it into the whole story, thus simplifying it by leaving out the conflict in the last half of the original. It sounds drastic and it was. But after it was done. I wondered how I could ever have thought we needed that last half.
  • Planning for interactivity. In the next revision, I plan to strengthen the interactivity of the story. I already have one section where kids can anticipate and chime in. I”m looking for a couple more places.
  • Planning for stronger language. The cuts I’ve done so far are playing up the fun language of the story. But I think it needs more tightening, so the fun phrases will shine.
  • Planning for unique characters. A friend reminded me that my characters are too stereotypical. But with minor edits, I can remove the stereotypical references and leave the characters stronger.
  • Planning to connect the beginning and end. The motivation at the beginning and the resolution at the end are still not matching up exactly. It’s close – but not right. I’m searching for alternative ways of setting it up. Because I like the new ending, which means the beginning has to set up that ending.

Not much to revise, huh? And people think writing a picture book is easy?

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