While I was working on several work for hire projects, I roughed out two picture books. While I’m pretty happy with the astronaut book, it needs work. The yoga book? If it was a house, I’d say it was a fixer upper. It’s that bad. But that’s okay. I’m going to rewrite.
I don’t mean fix typos and punctuation. This is a chance to revision the story. Did I get it down as planned? If yes, does it function well or is it time to knock out a few walls?
To work as a picture book, there has to be enough to the story to keep the reader coming back. Your picture book will cost $15 – $20. No one will pay that if it won’t hold up to repeated readings.
A story has a beginning, a middle and an end. Your character has a problem to solve. In a picture book, it can help to have a twist or surprise at the end.
Have you addressed your full audience? Yes, your picture book has to appeal to the young “reader.” But picture books are usually read by an adult to a child. There has to be something that will make the adult willing to read it 297 times in a row.
Small things to contemplate — this is like painting or refinishing hard wood floors. It may take time, but it isn’t structural.
Do you have too much dialogue? Dialogue cannot carry a picture book. Talking heads make boring illustrations. You want to give your illustrator something to work with. This means …
Hone that action! Something has to happen on every spread and use specific verbs to paint a picture. Why does your character walk when he can leap, lope or stride?
As you look at your draft, make sure you haven’t used up your word count describing what can be illustrated. Leave the illustrator room to play rather than describing what can be seen. Instead describe what can be smelled, heard or tasted.
Last but not least, read your story out loud. Your manuscript needs that picture book word play. If it doesn’t have it, look for ways to repeat sounds and words as well as use rhythm and rhyme. A picture book is meant to be read aloud. Help your readers, young and old, enjoy the experience.
Hmm. Looking at all of this, I think I have a lot to do! Happy writing, all!