Craft Book Read-Along: Writing Picture Books – Ready, Set, Go!

writingpicturebookscoverA few years ago, when I first started thinking I might be able to write a picture book, I bought a copy of WRITING PICTURE BOOKS by Ann Whitford Paul. If you ask any picture book writer for a list of her favorite craft books, this one’s usually on it.

I parked it on my bedside table, ready to read. That night, I soaked up the wisdom of her first chapter, right up to the end, and large box that said “Before You Go On.” Her first recommendation: Spend time reading picture books. Yes. Check. I do that all the time. Her second recommendation: Choose a published picture book you love, and one that is dreadful. Type out the manuscripts. Wait. No. I’m in my jammies. It’s 10:45 pm. Sorry, Ann. I can’t do that right now. I’ll just keep reading and pretend I did that assignment.

Chapter two. More wisdom. But at the end, another assignment: Before you go on, write a story question and answer for the story you wrote. Write one for your good and bad published manuscripts. Uhhh… Now it’s 11:15. I didn’t write a story. I didn’t type any manuscripts. Can I just pretend I did that assignment, too?

After a month of reading, but no actual doing, the book ended up on my shelf with my other craft books. Occasionally I dip into a chapter here and there when I am stuck on a story and want to pretend I’m doing something useful. I did actually type up a couple of manuscript samples at one point, but never really studied them in the way she recommends. And I’ve never been able to shake the feeling that I just didn’t get as much out of that book as I could have

As I was looking around for a good project that would help me grow as a writer this winter, I thought about WRITING PICTURE BOOKS. Maybe I should read it again – but this time, instead of just reading, I should DO the book. And maybe I should track my progress here, publicly, just to up the stakes a little bit.

Amazingly, I’ve managed to rope a few writer friends into doing this with me. So are you ready? Stretch your fingers. Get your library card ready. Let’s read!

Tentative Check-in Dates

I plan to post weekly about the book, but will do an official progress “check-in” every 2-3 weeks. I anticipate some of these dates might change as work and life get in the way, but here’s a rough schedule:

February 5 check in — Section 1: Before You Write Your Story

February 26 check in — Section 2: Early Story Decisions

March 12 check in — Section 3: Structure of Your Story

March 26 check in — Section 4: Language of Your Story

April 9 check in — Section 5: Tying Together Loose Story Ends

April 23 check in — Section 6: After Your Story Is Done

25 thoughts on “Craft Book Read-Along: Writing Picture Books – Ready, Set, Go!

  1. Carrie, I LOVE this idea! Forget the library card, I want to by my own copy so I can highlight, write in the margins and really dig in! I’m looking forward to discussing on the 5th.

    • Yay, Laura, I’m glad you’re joining! Writing in the margins is a great idea. I don’t know why I always feel reluctant to do that, but it makes total sense with a book like this.

      The library card is for checking out some of the picture books she cites as examples in the book. I’m hoping to find some of them at the library and read them as I’m reading the book.

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