Just like the eponymous hero of my latest picture book The Knight Who Might, I don’t give up. It took me 15 years of submitting before I was finally published in 2016 – and no one was more surprised than me that it was a picture book that turned out to be my debut. (That book was Professor McQuark and the Oojamaflip.) Picture books are tricky little blighters to write and it’s so hard to define the magic ingredients, but hopefully these pointers will give you some guidance and encouragement. Of course the most important ingredient is you, the author (see tip 7)!
See further below for a chance to win a copy of The Knight Who Might.
- The Rule of 12 – Most picture books have 12 double page spreads, so it helps to write with this in mind. Take a piece of paper and divide it into 12 sections. Think about what you want to go in each one. Make sure something happens in the middle. And what about the twist at the end? Seeing all this on one piece of paper really helps.
- Use interesting language. Children love onomatopoeia like CRASH! BANG! WHALLOP! – or be creative: SPLONGE!
- Remember the reader. An adult will probably be reading this story aloud. Make them work hard with dramatic sentences, funny voices and silly words.
- Remember the listener. The child will looking at the pictures while the story is rad. An illustrator will provide them with plenty of visual entertainment. Children’s illustrators are amazing! Leave room for this by not overwriting.
- And don’t forget the plot. Sometimes you can get to the end without noticing that SOMETHING hasn’t happened. That SOMETHING should change things.
- Look for a new angle. So many subjects have been covered by picture books that it’s hard to find a new topic. If you don’t find one, how about tackling an old topic in a new way?
- You can be the angle. You are the writer of this story – what can you bring to it?
- Treat the text like a poem. That doesn’t mean it has to rhyme, but if you were editing a poem you would look at every word to see if it earned its place. Dig down into each sentence, each phrase, and see if it adds value.
- Less is more. 500 words is a good amount to aim towards. Some of the best picture books have much less.
- Be playful. Let your inner child out. Forget about the critic leaning over your shoulder. The enjoyment will shine through.
If you’d like to learn more about writing picture books, why not sign up for my 6 week online course? Click here for details.
To win a copy of The Knight Who Might, just comment below and I’ll choose a winner at random on 17 November at 12 noon. Good luck!