Picture Books 5

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7 Children’s Picture Book Manuscripts in 7 Days

finishline
I’m taking the 7 in 7 picture book challenge.

Report on 7 in 7 for the first week of May, 2009

Overall: This was an interesting exercise that I’d like to repeat in a slower month, not May. Why is the Nanowrimo in November and this had to be in May. Pick July or February, slow months.

Besides the choice of months, though, writing seven picture books in seven days was a good exercise. I used a different strategy each time and found that the resulting picture book has a different weakness that I must overcome in later drafts.

This reinforced several truisms: first drafts are awful; writing children’s picture book is a difficult task; and, the need for fully developed characters is imperative, except for concept books.

  1. May 7 I stumbled across the Finish Line. It wasn’t a full marathon of writing picture books, of course, just a half-marathon. For this last day, I wrote a draft of a story, focusing on the sound effects that I could add to a story to make it a better read aloud. It was fun and noisy, but I wound up with a story with no conflict. First drafts are just bad. Sigh.
  2. May 6. Historical Fiction. OK, here comes the rationalization for why I don’t have a good draft done. A couple years ago, a friend told me a tidbit of interesting history. She was writing about it, though, so it was off limits for me. But it’s stayed with me as — well, very interesting. Especially interesting for kids. Yesterday, when I was thinking of topics to write about, that historical teaser came back and I looked up something about it and of course, a footnote took me off on another tangent. Which I actually think is even more fascinating for kids.

    In other words, I researched yesterday; I wound up with a very sketchy draft, if you could even call it a draft. In the end, it’ll be a good picture book, but the goal was supposed to be to write a draft. Well, maybe it’s a draft. I could call it that, right?

  3. Note: This is a note of general frustration with writing 7 picture books in 7 days. I want to dig in and revise, which I do endlessly on picture books. Instead, I have to come up with a new draft! ARGH!

    Actually, 7 days may be about right: only two more days to scribble out first drafts, and the rest of the year to revise.

  4. May 5: A Cumulative Story. After tossing out lots of ideas, I finally settled on a cumulative story much like This is the House that Jack Built. It’s an idea I had toyed with before and was fun to take it through all the stages.
  5. May 4: Delaware and Miriam. OK. This is getting hard! Picture books are short, yes, but that doesn’t mean they are easy to write. I’ve never written one in less than three days of intensive, obsessive work.

    I did get a draft done last night. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. But it’s no where near fully explored, much less refined. Still, just to get a draft done, I was pleased.

    I think the main problem is characterization. Why would this character do this? My problem is that I tend to write generic characters in my picture books and I’m really struggling to do more in such a short time frame.

  6. May 3: At the End of the Rainbow. I didn’t even start until 7 pm because I went to church, then did accounting. But I managed to finish a full draft of this story and am excited to see how it sounds after a couple days of cooling off. The title will change, but it’s a good working title. 1295 words. Yes, I’m writing long, but I can cut.
  7. May 2: ABC book. OK, so it’s one I had half-way started before and abandoned because I had blanks for about six letters. All I did today was fill in the rest of the letters, add more options to the letters I had and did general research and clean up. But I now have something for each letter. Yes, two or three are shaky. But it’s progress and I’m counting it.
  8. May 1: Violet Ivy’s Button Eyes. 1128 words.

Learn to Write Picture Books: Darcy Pattison’s Free Video Course


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1 Comment
  • Kelly
    May 9, 2009

    I was tempted to participate in this, so it’s great to see your experience!

    I always try to remember what Anne Lamott says about first drafts…and that it happens to everyone!