Tuesday, March 14, 2023

writing picture books, the first 70 words, Mindy Weiss' picture book party, picture book writing challenge
                                                                                                                                                 Photo: Thecut.com


I have a challenge for you.   

Take your picture book manuscripts (yes, all of them) and see if you can arrange the beginnings so that they are exactly 70 words.  Not a word over the limit.  The beginnings however, can be shorter than 70.  But you can't end in the middle of a sentence.

I learned about this exercise by taking part in Mindy Weiss' PB Party.

To participate, a writer had to submit only the first 70 words of a manuscript.  The idea is to set up the story and introduce the conflict in order to entice the judges to read more. 

For me, that required rearranging the beginnings of nearly all of my work and then selecting the strongest piece.  

Believe me, none of the first seventy words of any of my manuscripts were compelling enough.  I had to do lots and lots of tweaking to lower the word count.  Often, I'd get close but would always go over the limit by just one word.  It was frustrating and yet fun.  It was like working a puzzle, trying to restructure sentences so that the opening was clear and captivating.   After I had pared down all of manuscripts, I had to choose the most intriguing one so that the story would leave the judges begging for more.  

Sound easy?  It's not.  

But I will guarantee when you strive to make the beginnings of your stories shorter, your manuscript will be irresistible.  And agents will want to read further.    

So, I throw down the gauntlet.  What do you say? Are you up to it?  Are you ready to take the 70-word challenge?    

✌ and