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The Proper Picture-Book Story Writing Rule

Proper picture-book story writing isn’t as easy as it may seem to some.

These narratives may have less pages and far fewer words to work with than other forms of authorial design. But coming up with a new one, writing that new one, ensuring that the pictures are made to match – and then actually gaining approval from the picture book story writing market…

It’s just not so simple.

We already started touching on this topic on Thursday by acknowledging that nobody wants to feel like someone thinks they’re stupid. Children, even children as young as 3, want to be taken seriously. They’re going to be looking for some level of respect, oftentimes on a much more showy outward level than their adult selves.

(Hopefully on a much more showy outward level than their adult selves, anyway. Otherwise, that’s rather sad.)

Our “proper picture book story writing” Writing Rule below merely builds off of that principle.

Writing a picture book isn’t child’s play.

Think about the picture books listed along with this week’s Definition. Then think about the picture books you used to read as a kid. How about the oversaturated picture books market today?

That’s your competition. And it’s really steep.

To get noticed as an author in this category, you’re going to have to be awesome – in both parents’ and kiddies’ eyes.

Let’s go back to that third Writing Rule line: “How about the oversaturated picture books market today?” Just because we’re writing children’s books here doesn’t mean it’s not any less competitive than the big kid market.

And there are a lot of really great ideas that have already been taken.

Clifford the Big Red Dog.

The Magic School Bus.

Curious George.


And those are just the smash-hit series from my day. By all means, go out to Barnes & Noble or your local bookstore right now to see what children aged 3-8 are reading now.

Are you starting to see why proper picture book story writing isn’t child’s play now?

As Book Baby explains, “Don’t dumb it down – and think like a storyteller.”

Children’s books are simple, right? All you have to do is make up a silly series of events about a lima bean and a piece of tin foil and you’re done. E. Z.

Not so, says Santopolo. “First off, children aren’t dumb, so don’t write as if you’re writing for someone who is,” she says. “And you could probably create a very successful book about a lima bean and a piece of tin foil if it had a good plot arc and emotional arc, and if the lima bean was a cool character who did interesting things with his buddy Tin Foil.”

People write successful books about all kinds of interesting objects, she continues, but the core elements of storytelling are still key.

So go back to your yester-years. What attracted you? What interests did you have? What hobbies did you keep?

Now take those childlike focuses and combine them with your more mature senses and sensibilities. Then think really hard and write really hard and edit really hard…

And make your proper picture book story writing results look easy peasy lemon squeezy.


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