According to Eve Bunting, “Picture books are a joy to write.” Here are some pointers from her:
This is probably the most important thing to do when you are writing a picture book. As you are writing each sentence, try to think of it as a slide that is moving and changing as your book goes along. The illustrator has to have something ongoing to illustrate. You must think visually, and make sure every line you write is illustratable.
You are writing a picture book for little children. The shorter it is, as long as it says what you want it to say, the better it is.
I mean think of something that has a really strong, good message. It is giving the child a truth of life that child either knows, should know, or is going to find out. Sometimes you can tell a charming, amusing, surface story, but underneath there is nothing. You’ve got two pieces of bread in the sandwich, but you don’t have the ham. There is no nourishment there.
You just can’t hit children over the head with what you want to say. You have to make it implicit throughout the whole book.
Your story is going to have to be just super splendid to get past an editor who thinks, “Oh, I have seen this before.” Think of the editor who suddenly sees something that is absolutely different – that book is going to get a little attention.
Have a good last line before you begin. In a picture book, every line is important. But here, perhaps more than in anything else you will ever write, the last line is the most important. That last line has to leave a child feeling an emotion of some kind.
Be proud that you are a picture book writer. Be proud that you are starting children on reading. Be proud that you are saying something to little minds that is worth saying. Be proud when you think that your book may be the one that grandmother and granddaughter share, that father and son share at night when it’s time to get tucked in. Be proud that you are starting children on a lifelong habit of reading.
If you want to learn more about picture books and all the details of what creates a marketable story, consider attending one of our upcoming picture book workshops!
Posted on: July 15, 2014