Today, Maha shares suggestions for writing a picture book. Her tips are intended for self-publishing. Keep in mind that traditional publishers usually don't require illustration notes or page breaks.
First thing I learned is that picture books are 500-1000 words, 30 pages long. Remember that the 30 pages include the title, dedication, and the copyright pages, which leaves you with only 28 pages.
Illustrations and description
When you write a story, you would think you need to describe your scene in detail. Not so in picture books. The illustrations describe the scene. I deleted a lot of description before the illustrations, but when the illustrations arrived, I found out that I could delete even more. When I wrote my second and third stories (not published yet), I took that into account from the very beginning. What I did was to keep the description between brackets for the illustrator's benefit. This will give the illustrator an idea of how I want the scene to appear. I made another copy without the descriptions to keep count of the words.
Make a dummy
I made a dummy of my book, When Monsters Get Lonely, by adding the illustrations to the text, exactly where I wanted them to appear in a word document. I then clicked on view > full screen reading to render it in book form. I made sure the page turns left the reader wondering what’s coming next. This is the way I sent my book to the publisher to show them exactly where I wanted the text in relation to the illustrations.
I struggled with word choice because I’m not used to writing for kids. I tried to make my words as simple as I could. This was not easy, because the idea I was trying to convey in When Monsters Get Lonely is not simple. In the end, I felt that my words were descriptive and sensory enough to engage a child. Parents will read a book if they like its theme.
Read it out loud
One of the tips I read when I was writing my book was to read it aloud, and I did do that not only to myself, but to my husband and my sister-in-law. It helps you get an idea of how it will sound to the kids.
Plot and theme
All good books must have a climax and resolution. I’m afraid that my editor gave me a really poor critique, which was an education to me. I rewrote my story and revised my plot to include the all important climax and resolution. It didn’t change what Grams wanted to teach Hannah, but it handed Hannah a way to find the solution herself. Hence, Grams didn’t sound like she was preaching and it made for a much more interesting story.
The main character must have strong traits and resolve the problem. By resolving her own problems, Hannah’s character naturally developed and emerged as a strong and intelligent child despite her fear.
Maha Huneidi says she learned quite a lot when she wrote and self-published When Monsters Get Lonely. She thinks you can learn from the mistakes she made and corrected along the way.
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