MORE IS LESS!!!
One of the biggest problems I find with a large number of picture book manuscripts is that they are too long. The average I see is 1,000 to 2,000 words. For modern picture books, that's just too many words. It's no longer a picture book, but a short novel.
The average picture book these days is :500 to 700 WORDS!
Yep, that's it. Yes, you can go down to the bookstore and find many books that, but if you are a unknown, unpublished author, I would highly recommend sticking within those guidelines.
TRUST YOUR ILLUSTRATOR
Because you're a writer with pictures in your head and only black words on white paper, you may be tended to use descriptions. Resist this temptation! A good place to shave off excess words is in the descriptions. This is where you have to trust the illustrator. Your illustrator is a professional who will be using pictures instead of words to convey an image; beautiful pictues that will make your descriptions null and void. Unless it is absolutely, one hundred percent needed for the story, leave the descriptions out.
THINK OF A PICTURE BOOK LIKE A POEM: MAKE EVERY WORD COUNT.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
We all love Dr. Suess. He set the standard for children's literature. His timeless classics are still loved and cherished by young and old alike. He set the bar very high for picture book writers.
And he also ruined it.
Most people today think that if they are to write a picture book, they have to do it in rhyme.
About 90% of the children's picture book manuscripts I look at are in rhyme. The worst part is, 99.99% aren't very good rhymes. They are usually off in beats or meter or are strained to make the words fit, at the sake of the story.
Do most editors take rhyming stories anymore?
Sure. We like rhymes. But we like good rhymes, and as I just said above, most of what we get are not good rhymes.
Does that mean you should never do a rhyming story?
Of course not. Go ahead. But I would highly suggest that unless you are a poet (a real poet) and know what you're doing in terms of beat and meter, then by all means, tell a rhyme. But if you're not sure, remember this simple rule:
IF YOU CAN TELL THE STORY IN ANY OTHER WAY THAN RHYME, PLEASE DO SO.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Or Your Friend, or your child, or your spouse, illustrate it.
Unless you (or your friend, etc.) are an accomplished artist, I would never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never recommend that you try to illustrate your own picture book.
1. Because publishers already have a great pool of talent at their fingertips. There are artists out there just yearning to be called and asked to help illustrate a picture book. Publishers must have hundreds of them, so they really don't need your drawings.
2. When an editor reads a picture book manuscript, we like to see the images in our head. Sometimes we may have very different ideas of what we might think the pictures should look like than you do.
3. It's a pain photocopying the artwork in full color anyway.
4. Realize that the pictures you thought were masterpieces look like this:
compared to professional artists that look like this:
BUT WHAT IF YOU ARE AN ARTIST?
Then go ahead and submit your pictures. However, be prepared for a few things:
1. That the editors may feel that while your pictures are good, they may not express depth or motion that they feel the story needs.
2. They look too commericial. (A word thrown around a lot. What this means is that they look too slick, like Strawberry Shortcake, or Spongebob Squarepants.)
3. They just don't match what the editor had in mind for the story.
So if you are an artist and a writer, be prepared for the possibility that the editor may like your drawings, but not your story, or s/he may like your story, but not your drawings. What you decide to do in that situation is always your call, but remember that it helps to be flexible. If you're unwilling to compromise, it may end any possible relationship you might have with the house and limit your options in the future.