Posts Tagged ‘picture books’

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?

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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.