Nancy's Books

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Writing Picture Books, Part I/Calls for Submissions

Last week, an aspiring writer asked me for tips on writing picture books. Picture books can be deceiving. They look simple to write but can be difficult since every word must push the story forward. In a short span of less than 1,000 words, preferably less than 650, a beginning, middle, and end must be created with an endearing character in a particular time and place. The task is difficult but not impossible. Here are some tips that might make the job a little easier.

1. The plot should be simple and take place in a brief period of time. The structure of picture books take many forms, including cumulative stories; problem resolution tales; days of the week tales; circular stories; and journey stories.

2. The character’s feelings and perspective should represent the age of the audience.

3. Create a theme, a universal truth that resonates with the audience.

4. The ending should have a satisfying conclusion.

5. Allow the illustrator to draw much of the setting and description.

6. Write a text that allows action to be illustrated.

7. Plan for 14-15 scenes for about 28 pages of text and illustrations.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll take a more in-depth look at the different structures of picture books.

Call for submissions for young writers:
Creative Kids Magazine accepts cartoons, songs, stories between 500 and 1200 words, puzzles, photographs, artwork, games, editorials, poetry, and plays, as well as any other creative work by kids aged 8-16. The print magazine is produced by Prufrock Press, a publisher of materials for gifted and advanced learners. Submit via snail mail according to guidelines.
Details for submission and writing examples at

Call for submissions for adult writers:
Boom Writer This site is designed to inspire kids to write (and read). They are looking for "guest authors" to write opening chapters to be used to inspire stories and books from the kids. Kids then write their story using your story start, the stories go online, and when their purchased by family and friends of the child, the "guest author" receives a royalty.
Details at

Check out more contests on my blog:


  1. My litmus test for a good picture book is reading the story aloud. There is a certain cadence to a great picture book as you read it aloud. You either skip along through the text of a good story or get tripped up in the quagmire of misplaced text and inauthentic characters. When you read the story aloud, there is nothing to hide.

    You are right. It is not easy to do. Thanks for the good advice.

  2. I agree, when reading the story aloud, our brains pick up rhythms, or lack thereof, we don't "hear" when reading silently.