Simplify Your Picture Book Story
I’m currently revising a picture book and my major goal is to simplify the story.
- 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?