Picture books are strange hybrid beasts. They are part text and part illustration and both elements need to carry part of the story. This means that unless you are an author/illustrator, you only do half the job.
For an author this means that you write a brief text that leaves room for illustration. You’re encouraged to include specific verbs — skip or gallop vs walk. You also want to include the kinds of detail that make your characters come alive but you don’t want to include the visual details that the illustrator can depict.
Sometimes this means that you write a story and then go back through it several times. The second time you add details and specifics. The third time you cut both the reduce the word count but also to give the illustrator space to play.
Sometimes the illustrations include story elements that don’t come through in the text. Other times they help enhance character or setting.
What a lot of new writers don’t understand is that you don’t have to find your illustrator. That’s a job for the publisher. Your job is to write the story and it is a story that needs to stand on its own. When a publisher is interested in your manuscript, they find the illustrator.
Even wondered how an illustrator picks their projects or what to depict in each illustration? If so, check out the interview today on my book review blog, The Bookshelf. I’ve interviewed Missouri illustrator Wendy Martin about The Story Circle, her latest picture book.