Most people who read picture books to children enjoy the simple language and uncomplicated story lines. It’s ‘cute.’ It’s ‘simple.’ So writing them must be easy, right? You probably don’t want to say that to someone who writes picture books!
Advice that published authors, editors and agents give to struggling picture book writers is invaluable.
‘Use the five senses’ to bring the reader into the story.
Use dialogue and action to move the story along.
And the number one piece of advice to writers—‘Show, Don’t Tell.’
But how exactly do we do that? One way to learn is by reading other picture books. From the classics to those recently published and award-winning picture books! Read them all! But especially read recently published picture books. Within their pages you’ll see how other authors successfully make use of different writing techniques.
When you read picture books, read them out loud.
In an "http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-henry-sterry/jane-yolen-americas-hans-_b_5398407.html">interview in the Huffington Post on May 28, 2014 Jane Yolen says: “…I believe the eye and ear are different listeners. So as writers, we have to please both.”
When asked what the editing process is like for her when working on a picture book she said, “Reading it aloud over and over.” Click the link above to read the entire interview.
Read many picture books to hone your ear for sentence structure, vocabulary, pacing, rhythm, and page turns. Listen for language. The language needs to sound good when read aloud.
When you’re done reading, type out the text to see how the words look without illustrations
Here are some links with advice about writing a picture book. You can find more by doing an online search for ‘advice on writing picture books.’
Harold Underdown’s website, The Purple Crayon, has links to articles about writing picture books.
Read a post by Emma Dryden about Why Playing It Safe May Be the Most Dangerous Game of All.
Read Christie Wright Wild’s blogpost for another perspective on how to study picture books.
Why Do Editors Say Not to Write in Rhyme? Read Tara Lazar’s blog post for some of the reasons.
If you're a picture book writer looking for information or inspiration, and you live in the St. Louis area, please join me this Saturday, June 28th, at the St. Peters Cultural Arts Center on Mexico Road at a meeting of the Saturday Writers. I'll be doing a presentation on The Nuts & Bolts of Writing a Picture Book, followed by Revision & Marketing. Saturday Writers is a group of ‘writers encouraging writers,’ and is a chapter of the Missouri Writers Guild.