Posts Tagged ‘picture books’

Landsquid Picture Book Progress

Seasons are weird, aren’t they, squiders? Sometimes they make no sense, like when it’s October and 80 degrees and could be summer except the leaves have turned, or when it snows in June.

But spring has come in right on schedule. The weather changed. The flowers came up. The birds came back. All literally starting on the equinox. It’s kind of freaking me out.

I am not being productive, which is a combination of all the not-writing things I need to do and the fact that I want to write, so consequently nothing at all is getting done. But I did force myself to walk to the open space this morning (there’s a convenient picnic table not too far in) to do some drawing on the landsquid picture book I’ve been very slowly working on. (My spouse pointed out that we’d outlined it last summer. Har.)

(Have not called the medical people or done anything for the consignment sale, aside from looking at the facebook page.)

I came to the realization earlier that I was actually sabotaging myself by doing picture book publication research. First of all, it was taking time away from working on the story itself, and second of all, it’s a bit premature. Why do we care about publishing when we don’t have anything to publish?

(The Childrens’ Market book thus far has not been extremely valuable. I have not learned anything I did not already know.)

I think the idea was that I didn’t quite know what I needed to publish a picture book, when we got to that point, and that I didn’t want to be missing something. But I really should just leave it alone for a bit.

So I’m currently working on what I guess is called a “dummy,” which is essentially a sketched-out version of the book. My process thus far has gone like this:

  • Outline the book (basic phase outline using bullet points, one of my favorites)
  • Do length research (I went through a bunch of the small, mobile ones’ picture books and looked at how long they were, and how many pages were sundries–title page, dedication, copyright, etc.–versus story pages. Almost every book I looked at was 32 pages long, with somewhere between 2 and 4 pages being sundries, with most of the stories being 28 pages long)
  • Write a first draft by pages (Example: 1. On a bright, sunny day, Landsquid invited his friends to a picnic in the woods.)
  • Create a dummy (draw and write out story in a non-polished manner, in this case, in an old lined college notebook using a pencil)

I guess the dummy is not traditionally something that is done–that you submit the words to a publisher and then they or their chosen illustrator do the page layout–but I’m finding it’s helping immensely for story flow and plot progression. A lot of the first draft pages are more stage directions than words, and that’s changing as I work through the dummy.

Whatever, this is a learning process, and everyone has to find the process that works for them anyway.

And if nothing else comes of this, it was nice and relaxing to sit in the open space and draw, even if it was windy.

Page 13 of the dummy
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One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

So, both the Landsquid books and the nonfiction books are lower down in the priority for the next week, since the Fractured World anthology is coming out in about a week and I have Things That Need Doing (I am in charge of the back cover copy, the inside formatting, and the cover, and somewhere along the way here I have obviously taken on too much responsibility).

But that doesn’t mean I’m not working on them still. I finished the rough draft of the Landsquid book and have drawn most of the pages, and I started researching how one goes about submitting a picture book to publishers, and I have learned things.

I have learned that, apparently, you take the text of your picture book, put it in manuscript format, and send it off. And…that’s it. No artwork. No illustration notes.

Which…what? What? There are a ton of books written and illustrated by the same person–how did they submit? I have pages in my book where there are just pictures and no text–how is that represented in the manuscript format? Is it? Or does what text there is have to stand on its own?

I guess the idea is that publishers want the option to hire their own illustrators for projects, and so they’re more likely to accept a book without any artwork baggage. And, to be honest, I wouldn’t mind someone else illustrating. I am a competent artist but I’m under no illusions about being amazing. I just can’t figure out what I’m supposed to do.

(If anyone knows, please share your wisdom! I’m also going to look into my local SCWBI chapter–it’s been probably 5 years since I last did anything with them and I don’t remember anything–and see what’s what there.)

The journal class continues to be MIA. I emailed a follow-up last night but have not heard anything. Bah. Bah, I say! Meanwhile I’ve gotten a ton of emails from this company advertising OTHER classes they want me to buy, and I can’t say I’m motivated to ever buy anything from them ever again.

(I have Lifetime access on another class I bought from them four years ago, and I went back through it last week, since I also bought that class for the nonfiction series, and it’s not in a great state. Links going to the wrong information, missing information, etc. So.)

I did find a possible alternative, if it comes to that. The other teacher I follow who’s offering a journal/workbook class has a standalone workbook on the subject for $10. It’d probably be better than nothing, but I am waffling. It sounds like part of her class/workbook is figuring out what the workbook should be about, and I’ve got that part down. I mostly want formatting info.

Also, I’m working through How to Think Sideways, which is a class offered by Holly Lisle. I bought it for a lot of money a long time ago (probably 10 years) but never got all the way through it, and I’ve always wanted to get my money’s worth out of it. So I’m going through. I’ve made it past the lesson that tripped me up the first time, and have a ton of new story ideas, which is…well, not terrible. But I’ve got to get some stuff done before I start new things.

(Now, Holly is a woman who maintains her lifetime access in a way that is actually useful. Plus she updates the courses instead of making a new course and then expecting you to pay again.)

(I’m sorry, I’m just really Not Impressed with journal class company right now.)

But, yes, the anthology must be done. If I can swing it, I hope to finish the print formatting today and get the cover done. We’ll see, though, because everything is taking longer today than it should.

How are you doing, squiders?

Picture Books and Progress

Happy Friday, squiders! I hope you’re doing well. It keeps snowing on my plans over here in these parts.

I think I’ve told you guys about my plan to try out writing some picture books. I tried once before (waaaaay back in 2012, before I had small, mobile ones of my own) and it was hard, but now that I’ve read a ton in recent years, I feel like I have a better handle on the whole thing.

(hahahaha we’ll see, won’t we?)

In an attempt to have this go better than the last time, I’ve been doing some research. One of the things I’ve been looking at is how many pages you get to tell your story, since, unlike a novel, a picture book needs to fit in a set, industry-standard range, and it seemed important to understand what that was before I wrote the book and potentially ended up with too many or too few pages.

My research tells me the story tends to make up somewhere between 26 and 30 pages (with 28 being most common) with their being four pages of administrative stuff (such as title pages, dedications, copyright, etc.).

I’ve also been taking classes various places, studying illustration and narrative art and comics, all of which are very interesting. But I kind of feel like I’ve reached the point where I’m still poking around because I’m nervous about actually doing the work, if you know what I mean.

The last time I tried this (seven years ago! Good Lord!) went poorly. It is scary trying a new format. But I know what I need to know, and I just need to do the dang thing.

What else have I been up to so far this year?

  • I wrote the second-to-last section of my serial. The last part will be done next month.
  • I edited my anthology story. Just one more rounds of edits before publication. I’ve also spent some time making mock covers and poking titles.
  • I joined the genre stretch challenge over at WriYe (this month is dystopian + Gilded Age romance) and am about 1.5K into my story.
  • I also joined the prompt challenge, picked universes to work in (decided on Shards and the Trilogy), and chose prompt lists
  • Siri and I are actively working on CoHaR II now that we’ve survived the holidays (and Disney World)
  • One of my writing groups is doing their winter critique marathon, so I’ve got my space dinosaur story in there. So far, so good.

For the rest of the month, I’m going to work on the genre stretch story, CoHaR II, and the picture book. For February, I’m pondering a few different things.

  • Now that the nonfiction books are drafted, I should go back through them, compile them, add new sections, and get them ready for publication.
  • I’d also like to start a new draft of something. I’m pondering going back and doing Holly Lisle’s How to Think Sideways class with something, which I’ve never gotten all the way through. But now could be a good time to do so.

How’s your January going? Thoughts on February? Things to note about picture books?

Revisiting Picture Books

January I brought up how I was going to be participating in #kitlitart’s PB dummy challenge. It’ll be new and exciting! I said. It’ll be fun! I said.

Turns out writing picture books is really hard.

It’s interesting, because I’ve never really been terribly in-tune with picture books before, but now that I’m working on one myself, they seem to be everywhere. I’ve been getting requests in my editing/formatting business for picture books left and right – and believe me, formatting has not been truly frustrating until you have to convert a picture book into an epub. (Epubs? Don’t like pictures.)

(On the other hand, editing picture books? Lovely. I would do it all day.)

I even went to a critique group last month and someone had a picture book.

Picture books are hard for a number of reasons:

1) How much description is right? Too much and you risk bogging the story down for the kidlets. Too little and no one has any idea what’s happening, and you can only distract them with landsquid for so long.

2) Word choice. A few new words are probably okay, but you have to make sure the kids are going to understand what’s happening.

3) I am a not a child. I occasionally read picture books but am definitely not the target audience, so sometimes it’s hard to get in the right mindset.

I know that picture book writing, like everything else, is something that will take time and dedication, and I’m beginning to wonder: am I spreading myself too thin? I don’t really need to be good at novels and short stories AND picture books, necessarily.

Not to say that I’m giving up. I have a first draft and I’ve gotten some feedback on it. I’ll try to fix it up before I throw in the towel. But it kind of seems to be going the way screenwriting did – interesting, good to try, but not necessarily what I want to do.

Time will tell, though.

How do you feel about picture books, Squiders? Ever tried to write one? How do you feel about choosing formats of writing and sticking to them?

Shorter is Sweeter?

Sometime last month I mentioned that I was going to attempt kitlitart’s picture book challenge. I like children, writing, and drawing, so I thought it would be fun.

Oh Batman, it is so hard.

You’ve got to make sure you’re telling a complete, easy-to-understand story in a very few amount of words. You’ve got to make sure that you’re not using any words that are too big. (Something I suspect I am failing at greatly.) And you’ve got to make sure there’s something in the story that the child can identify with.

I got writer’s block 123 words in and spent some time attempting to draw a station wagon. It turns out that I cannot draw station wagons. Alas. If this story ever sees the light of day, I hope they hire someone else to draw the final pictures.

And I got to thinking that, for me, shorter is harder. Those six-word stories? Can’t wrap my brain around them. I can manage a twitter story every once in a blue moon, and flash fiction is something that continuously eludes me. Once we get into short story territory, I’m fine, though I do tend towards the longer end (3-8K).  Succinct just isn’t in my blood.

It’s somewhat bell curvy, because there’s an upper limit (about 100K) that I can’t seem to get past either.

Any tips for picture books, Squiders? Do you find shorter works to be easier or harder? Where’s your comfort zone?

Year of Doing Things: Picture Book Challenge

I have friends – and I’m sure you do too – who have yearly resolutions to try new things. I have a few that want to do a new thing every month, or even every week.

I am nowhere near that adventurous. I hold myself to a just a couple of new thing goals: 1) Go somewhere I have never been before, and 2) Do something new writing-wise. Last year I started submitting short stories (and went to Peru). The year before I entered a couple of query contests (…and went to Germany). This year, we are trying the medium known as picture books.

This is for a couple of reasons. One, they look fun. Two, people have said I have a good child voice. (Alternately, people have said I’m really good at dark. Those two concepts seem to be mortal enemies.) Three, why not? It never hurts to try something new.

So, with the urging of my dear Sarah, I have joined #kidlitart’s 2012 picture book dummy challenge. The goal is to have a complete dummy ready by June. That is an excellent time frame for me (more on that sometime in the future) and hopefully I will come out of the challenge with something good.

Ever done a picture book, Squiders? What are your favorites? (Either from when you were a kid, or ones you like to read to your kids.) I’ve always been rather partial to The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash.