Nancy's Books

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Picture Book Revision, part 1

           Whew! The first draft is finished looks more like a lump of coal than a polished gem, but coal is good. The revision process starts now. Here are some “coal” hard facts:

The manuscript needs structure with a tight arc that clearly defines the beginning, middle, and ending. Many picture books suffer from an ending that’s too short or a beginning that’s too long. Writers accomplish this with a setup of three obstacles the character must face, each obstacle increasing in difficulty and leading toward a climax. Ideally, the beginning is about 20% of the manuscript, the middle is 60%, and the ending is 20%.
Here’s a burning question I always ask myself: Does the character accomplish what s/he sets out to do and without intervention by an adult? If not, rethink the plot.
Condensed writing. Keep the story less than 600 words, under 500 words is preferable with many publishers. The key to tight writing is to cut, cut, cut words. If the words don’t promote the plot or develop the character, axe them. Every word must help tell the story. Chop words that don’t paint pictures: it, there, just, that.
Allow illustrations to work for you. Since I’m not a writer, I have to constantly think about what can be shown with art. Facial expressions, color of clothes, etc. Think visually.
Burning question number 2: Have I communicated a particular idea? If so, it doesn’t need to be repeated, unless I’m using a repetition phrase intentionally for the purpose of rhythm and storytelling.
In my next blog, I’ll continue with more tips on how to polish that lump into a gem.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
HIGHLIGHTS MAGAZINE. Highlights for Children is a general-interest, advertising-free magazine for children up to age 12. Stories for younger readers (ages 3 to 7) should have 500 words or fewer and should not seem babyish to older readers. Stories for older readers (ages 8 to 12) should have 800 words or fewer and should be appealing to younger readers if read aloud. Frequent needs include humor, mystery, sports, holiday and adventure stories; retellings of traditional tales; stories with urban settings; and stories that feature world cultures. Payment $150 and up. Rebuses should have 120 words or fewer. Pays $100 and up. Nonfiction pays $150 and up.

Submission guidelines at https://www2.highlights.com/contributor-guidelines

Nancy Kelly Allen has written 40+ children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK. Check out her blog at www.nancykellyallen.com

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