Yesterday, we talked about the wee ones and how to write for them. But that was only part of the picture. There’s lots more to consider.
When writing picture books, sensory detail is highly important. Make sure characters not only see and hear, but taste, smell and feel, as well. Also, use words that can be dramatized by the reader, like snap, tweet, grrr, or crunch, for example that adults can really exaggerate. They love that stuff!
You need to keep the little one interested, so you should encourage readers to use lots of expression when reading out loud. It’s your job to give them something to express! Read your stories aloud to see if they work well in the telling, and make sure they have a happy ending. The little ones aren’t remotely ready for angst or sadness.
Colorful pictures that evoke emotions are also important to pre-schoolers. If you have some artistic talent, you may eventually want to illustrate your own work, but it’s best to concentrate on the writing. Let your words paint the pictures. That’s really what editors are looking for.
If you’re a professional artist, that’s a different story. Yet, it’s still best to submit only the written manuscript. Artists are normally hired by the publisher because they consider the illustrations in picture books so important. In fact, there is a consensus among publishers of picture books that illustrations do half the work of the book.
Therefore, the most important thing to keep in mind when writing is visualization. Make sure that your material lends itself to drawings or pictures, and consider the format of a picture book. The standard length is 32 pages, although it may be as short as 16 pages or as long as 64 pages, with word counts as low as 25 words or as high as 1,500. However, the higher word counts are for older children. An infant book, for example, may have only one word on a page.
If you want to be sure your story fits, it may be helpful to you to make a dummy copy. This will help you to see if your story will work in words and pictures. And think about how exciting it will be to hold your “book” in your hands? You can almost see it published, can’t you?