Monday, November 4, 2013


I'm heading into uncharted territory right now for me - the world of picture book writing! I have a kernel of an idea that's been niggling at me for awhile so I'm going to give picture book writing a go!

I know I have a lot to learn.  In other words, I haven't a clue how to start. I also know it's not going to be easy. Shorter does not mean easier.

I can visualize marvellous illustrations for my book but I'm a little vague about the words. I haven't read many picture books since my daughter passed that stage and I retired from teaching school. I'm full of questions - How long should it be? Do I include description? How many characters? What kind of vocabulary? Do I give the illustrator suggestions?

My journey has begun! I bought two books from Amazon on writing picture books and I checked out a dozen picture books from our local library. I've just got my toes wet but already I've learned a lot.

A good starting point for me has been the idea of a story question and a story answer. In her book Writing Picture Books, Ann Whitford emphasizes the importance of knowing your story question. Note: one question because picture books are short. It might start with What happens when . . . ?  What happens when two friends find an abandoned boat? What happens when a dog is bored? What happens when a baby bat is separated from his mother? A story question will keep your story focused. The story answer should be specific to your story and should be only one sentence.

I set myself some homework and wrote down a story question and a story answer for each of the dozen books I got out of the library. These are all quality award winning picture books and they all had a clear story question and answer! So it does work.

Do I know my story question? Not yet. It's okay to start playing around with the first draft before I'm sure exactly what it is my story is about, but I think I'll breathe a little easier when I can write my question on a card and stick it above my computer.

I'm loving this new challenge in my writing life and will keep you posted on my ups and downs as a wanna-be picture book writer, as well as other useful tips I come across!

My favourite picture book of the week:

Stanley's Party by Linda Bailey

A rollicking picture book that I guarantee will change the way you look at your dog! There's lots more in the series, all hilarious.


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