In class, one thing we had to do was dummy out a picture book. This was a very interesting experience. When you think of writing a picture book, you think, man that’s easy. Anyone can do it. But you’d be wrong. It takes a lot of patience and practice to write picture books.
The act of writing the story, cutting out the words, placing them on paper is one that every writer should try, at least once. While I was doing this, there were some things I realized about writing for children and writing picture books specifically.
The first thing is that I wrote way too many words. Some words weren’t needed due to placement or illustration (I didn’t actually do any drawing, I just imagined it.) What could be said with a picture rather than with words and would that make more of an impact?
The next thing I realized is that it is really tedious and time-consuming work. Any writing is, but dummy-ing a picture book is a heavy task. It’s also very fun. It’s like trying to put a puzzle together.
Another thing about picture books is people assume that you have to dumb everything down for them. That you can’t use “fancy” or “complicated” or “big” words. This is very not true! I read a good book for part of my reading journal called The Very Inappropriate Word and it’s all about words. It just defines them in very cleaver ways.
A big no no when it comes to writing for children is, don’t talk to them like babies. Children are capable of understanding more than you think they can. Don’t insult them by acting like they can’t handle some big grown up talk.
I really enjoyed the experience and I think I got a lot out of it. It also has inspired me to work more on picture books rather than just focusing on YA!
My challenge for you, reader, is to dummy out a children’s book. I’ll give you the same guidelines my teacher gave us. The book can be about anything and you have to have 32 pages. (16 pages. Use front and back) Save one page for the title and the other for all the copyright stuff and start the story on page 2. It’s really fun, but it’s not for everyone. If you are in need of inspiration here are some prompts that might help:
*come up with a theory on how something works. (Ex. Rain comes from the tears of angels.)
*write about a hard subject (divorce, cancer/illness, abuse, bullying)
*And you thought dragons didn’t exist….
*An old man is sitting on a park bench staring at the swing. Why?
*A child goes to the library for the first time.
*A child gets their first pet
*The main character is not human.
Have fun, and as always, keep writing!
And please, share your experiences with me! 🙂 Leave me a comment!