Friday, July 31, 2009

The Itty-Bitty, Nitty-Gritty Information About Writing a Children’s Picture Book

When most people think of writing a children’s picture book, they think of the actual story writing process – the character development, the plot and resolution, etc. But what about the rest of the details? The significant, valuable, crucial, vital, key details?

Here is a list of some of the most important, yet most overlooked elements of writing a children’s book:

1. Of utmost importance – know the age of your target audience and write for that age level! Talk to teachers and librarians and know what is appropriate for your audience. This is the one item that I see overlooked on far too many children’s books.

2. Don’t have too many words on each page. This goes back to #1, knowing the reading level and attention span of your audience.

3. Choose your font carefully. Avoid hard-to-read fonts with curly-Q’s that may confuse young children. The easiest to read and most commonly used fonts are ones like Arial and Times New Roman, and they are almost always printed in black.

4. Be aware that the standard length of a children’s picture book is 32 pages.

5. Make the illustrations large, preferably full-page as opposed to tiny little pictures surrounded by large white areas.

5. Make sure the illustrations match the words. This is really crucial. If the page is about a boy on a swing, this must be shown in the picture.

6. Add some extra details to the pictures that will enhance your words. In my book about the Knot Fairy, the words tell you that she has tangled the children’s hair. The picture “tells” you that she has also tied a knot in the cat’s tail.

7. Make sure the colors are bright and appealing to young children.

8. Add a few elements to the pictures that can be repeated throughout the book. This adds to the continuity of the book. Also, young children like to look for things like the dog that can always be seen hiding someplace in the pictures.

9. Have the action in your left hand page moving toward the center of the book. Have the action in the right hand page leading the reader to turn to the next page.

10. Always keep in mind that on of the goals with a picture book is to strive for a perfect balance between the pictures and the written words.

One exercise that I highly recommend is to go to your local bookstore at least once a month and take a careful look at the best-selling, best-reviewed and award-winning children’s books. Be sure to take the above list with you and keep track of the itty-bitty, nitty-gritty, but oh-so-important details.

P.S. The picture above is from The Sock Fairy. The words on the page are simply, "He mixes up socks!"

Bobbie Hinman


Brimful Curiosities said...

A very helpful list. Thanks for posting your thoughts on writing.

Christine said...

Thanks for sharing these helpful tips about children's picture books! :-)

Katie Hines said...

Great tips!