|Photo: Hannah Olinger|
How would you feel if a critic said your picture book manuscript was not a picture book?
Recently, that very thing happened to my friend Anne. As you can imagine, she was upset. The critic remarked it was more suitable for a magazine. What's weird is I had worked with Anne on this particular project and I've always considered it a picture book.
So, how do you know if you've written a magazine story or a picture book?
Magazine stories have fewer illustrations, have one scene, and are meant to be read once.
Picture books rely on illustrations, have scenes that advance the plot, and are meant to be read out loud and repeatedly.
Specifically, picture books:
- Are usually for ages 4 - 8
- Are usually 32 pages
- Are about journey and heart (those words that makes us feel)
- Present universal themes (love, friendship, courage, hope, etc.) in a fresh way
- Impart a message without being preachy.
- Have a rhythm and a flow of the language that invites adults to read the story out loud
- Have an engaging plot that begs the story to be read again and again
- Have well-timed page turns
- Have lots of visual opportunities for illustrations
Some picture books are simply a lively romp with lyrical language and energy that’ll entice re-reading for the sheer joy of it. More often, picture books are character-driven with a strong arc. These stories center on an inner conflict which leads to character development.
What if you're still unsure if you've written a picture book?
You can separate the text of your manuscript into pages and try to envision the art that will support each page.
When author Debbie Ridpath Ohi pages out her text, she does tiny thumbnail sketches using stick figures to check overall flow. Debbie says, "You don’t need to be an artist to do this!"
So, what did my friend decide to do? Anne realized the critic was entitled to her opinion, but she also realized the critic had made some good points, which inspired her to reevaluate her picture book. Moving forward, Anne plans to edit her work by making the text more joyful to ensure re-readability and by developing more inner conflict that will lead to character growth.
Anne has the right attitude. She knows it takes determination to stay positive and to continue after hearing discouraging comments. But what would you do if someone were to give you a disheartening critique about your work, especially if you heard it's not a picture book? I hope you would question that opinion. You may need to find others for support. You certainly have my support. I will tell you to believe in yourself. Believe in your writing. Don't let one opinion get you down. Be strong. Keep on going and don't give up. You know as well as me, it takes perseverance and a thick skin to write for kids.
✌ and ♥