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Get Ahead Kids - Vol. 4, No. 6 - November/December 2012

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Are You Planning a Picture Book Over the Summer Break?

By Hazel Edwards

Over summer, some educators and parents aim to write the stories they have been collecting based on anecdotes from and about the children in their lives.

These picture books may be amateur productions, created for the love of a single child, or aimed at a wider audience. Photographs or other illustrations can be used in varied formats including e-books.

Mistakenly, many assume picture books are easy to write, so here are some hints adapted from my latest book 'Authorpreneurship:The Business of Creativity' on how to tackle a specialist niche which has a wide, international readership and often a long reading life, but which is technically challenging.

Initial Questions

  • Ask yourself why you are writing it & be honest!
  • Who is your audience, a specific childor the child within you?
  • Is a picture book an appropriate concept for the target age group?
  • Does it have the potential for imaginative visuals?
  • Is the text simple?
  • Has the logic been established?

Hints for Writing Picture Books

  • Concept-what is the story about & is it a big enough concept for 32 pages? What is the underlying conflict, which provides the drama or tension?
  • Title-consider the sound & length of the title & test it on the target age group.
  • Limit the number of named characters or distinguish them quickly e.g. Lulubelle & Lucybelle are too similar.
  • Be consistent in your story telling.
  • Storyboard the text across a 32 page picture book, to indicate the variety of visuals that are needed.
  • Are there any challenges for the illustrator e.g. make children uni-sex.
  • What formats do you want the final book-print, e-book or audio.
  • How many words? There are no rules, but under 200 words is a guide. Picture books with no text can be very emotionally involving.
  • Get the text right first. Don't organise an illustrator who is family or friend, as often the publisher prefers to commission illustrators.
    Tense -present tense is shorter & more immediate.
  • Concepts should be presented in child, not adult vocabulary e.g. you are good at making things, rather than 'you are inventive' unless this 'inventor' term is central to the story.
  • Show, not tell-rather than say the character is inventive, give three outrageous examples of what the character has made e.g. upside down pet-feeder, goggles for onion chopping without crying.
  • Dated clichès like 'pleased as punch' convey little for younger readers.
  • Use specifics-on Friday, rather than one day.
  • Great to include 'noisy' words, but make them easy to read.
  • Check the logic-there needs to be an internal logic in a fantasy.
  • Make every verb count eg spluttered rather than moved.
  • Is a picture book the most appropriate format for this concept? Maybe it needs to be an illustrated story or animation.
  • Will the story translate into other cultures & other mediums?
  • Aim for page-turning quality & interest.
  • Enjoy the process.
  • See how many words you can now take out.

About Hazel Edwards

Author and National Reading Ambassador Hazel Edwards is best known for her picture book series 'There's a Hippopotamus on our Roof Eating Cake' and her picture book 'Feymouse' has just been produced as an App by Blue Quoll.
More Information

More Information

Hazel Edwards
National Reading Ambassador 2012


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