Get to Know Your Picture Book Before You Start Revising

Mar 20, 2018 | Picture Books

You’ve written the first draft of your picture book story. Congrats! Just getting the bare bones down is an accomplishment. Take the time to celebrate.

No matter how excited you are, no matter how confident you are in your story’s genius execution, RESIST THE URGE to send it out right away. Put it aside for at least a couple of weeks before starting revisions; you’ll be better able to look at your story objectively.

Crafting a good picture book story is a lot like working on a good soup recipe. You may think you have the right ingredients and you may very well have, but it’s worth taking the time to let your mixture simmer for a while before tasting it again.

Some questions to ask yourself:

Will a young reader be able to identify with the main character? Is the story told from a viewpoint of a grown-up or a child?

Does your story text leave enough room for the illustrator? Or are you including a lot of visual details that are better shown in the illustrations?

If your story text uses rhyming, does it flow smoothly and further the plot? Inexperienced picture book writers assume that all picture books need to rhyme. It is very, VERY difficult to write a good rhyming picture book.

Have you read your story out loud more than once? Will your story be a fun and/or satisfying read aloud? If you find yourself stumbling over the same bits more than once, then you might want to consider rewording.

Does your story have a clear beginning, middle and a satisfying ending? How is the pacing throughout your book? An exercise I find useful: try paging out your text (insert page breaks). I also do a page of tiny thumbnail sketches using stick figures to check overall flow. You don’t need to be an artist to do this!

The more time you spend getting to know your picture book, the more effective your revisions will be, and the better your final story.

Thank you to our faculty for this Guest Post!

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