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  • Ariel Mendez

Want To Write A Picture Book? 3 Things To Do Before You Begin

Updated: Feb 1, 2023

Have you ever wanted to write a picture book or wondered where to begin? When I first started writing picture books, I would simply just write. I wrote about the characters, described the setting, developed relationships, sped through the problem, and reached perfect happy endings. The result was a poorly written book. Why? Even though picture books are shorter than what we adults read, that does not mean they are easier to write. It also does not mean you can write whatever you want and assume that simply because it is child-like that it is a good book.

But trial and error is your best friend in writing! Write one manuscript. Don't like it? Revise!

As you begin writing children's books or picture books, here are a few things to keep in mind as you work on your manuscript:

  • Target age range

It is fairly common to see novice writers draft picture book manuscripts for "all children". The fact is, a two year old does not want the same books as a six year old. There are concept books or board books for younger kids, versus more complex stories for older kids. "All children" is not an age range and it does not help you target your book to a particular reader.

Also, understanding the age range will help you know the word count for your book. There are general word counts for different genres and for different age ranges. A simple Google search for children's book word counts will inform you. This is not simple; I have been in critique groups with seasoned published authors who still struggle with age ranges and word counts. But if you do not know the age of your intended audience, than you will have much work in revisions.

  • Writing a great story

How do you know what is a great story? Unfortunately, you never really know what is great or what isn't. It is entirely subjective and entirely up to the readers tastes and preferences. Similar to art; I may enjoy Renoir and dislike Picasso. If you let this go, the need to please the reader, than your writing will be better for it!

The best you can do as an author is write the best manuscript you can. Understand the three-part story structure which applies to all books of any genre; beginning, middle, end. What will it look like in a picture book? Your beginning should only take a few pages, your middle will be the bulk of the book, and your ending should only take a few pages. Be consistent: consistency in your pacing, in your tone or mood, in your language.

Lastly, join a critique group! I have found the best critique groups are affiliated with writing organizations. Find one in your community. The good news is that so many organizations have gone virtual now, so if there is not one in your immediate area you can join from afar. It helps tremendously to have another writer read your work; sometimes we are too close to the writing, seeing it too often, that we miss obvious improvements such as repetitive words.

Make excellence a priority, that you are writing the best manuscript you can.

  • Read other books in your genre

If you have small kids in the home, like me, than this will be an easy one! Read books. Read books like the one you want to write. For me right now, I am reading a lot of nonfiction picture books to understand how to write biographies without information overload. Another example: If you want to write a rhyming book, read a lot of books that rhyme.

Don't read them to compare yourself. It's really not fair to compare your drafts to someone else's finished book. Instead, read it for inspiration. Read it for understanding of story structure, pacing, and just overall improvement for your own writing.

As always, I wish you the best on your writing endeavors! Writing is an ongoing practice, not a destination to be arrived or a benchmark to be reached. Was this helpful? If you want more articles and resources like these, join my email list to receive my free Self-Publishing From Start To Finish Guide.


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