Craft Book Read-Along: Writing Picture Books – Section 1 Check-in

writingpicturebookscoverIt’s February 5, and I’m here as promised to check in on my progress reading (and doing) WRITING PICTURE BOOKS. Luckily, Section 1 is only one chapter so I have not fallen behind before starting!

First, I wanted to share one of my favorite bits from chapter 1:

Writers for the very young, even if they’re not illustrators, still must have visual images in their minds.

She goes on to list 4 ways of keeping the listener involved with the story. I’m going to rephrase a bit, because it helps me to think about it this way. The advice is essentially that each time you turn the page in a picture book, the characters must be:

1. doing something new, or

2. interacting with someone new, or

3. in a new place, or

4. having new feelings (that can be shown)

The key idea is, NEW. What’s new? What’s changed? How is the story moving forward? With each turn of the page.Β I know we’ve all heard this a thousand times before, but it somehow helped me to read it here and think about it in this way.

And now, time for true confessions…here’s how I did:

Assignments for Chapter 1: Becoming a Picture Book Scholar

– Spend time reading picture books (especially those mentioned in Writing Picture Books).

Yup, did it. I read quite a few of the books listed in chapter 1, and even reviewed Manana Iguana, which was charming (not to mention well crafted, as one would expect). I’d actually never read a picture book by Ann Whitford Paul, so it was nice to see something of her work.

– Choose a published book you love, and one that you think doesn’t work (both published in the last 5 years). Type out the text of both books.

I struggled with this a bit. It wasn’t hard to find a book I loved, of course. Finding a good “bad” example wasn’t as easy. Editors at the big publishing houses do a good job of quality control. However, I finally recalled a book that I’d read to my son 3 or 4 years ago. It was so terrible I gave it away. I looked for that book at the library, couldn’t find it, but ended up getting another from the same author (name withheld to protect the innocent).

Did anyone else struggle with this part? If so, what are your ideas for finding a good “bad” book? I thought of looking at celebrity books, and also in the bargain bin at B&N (on the theory that the books must be there for a reason).

– Read a new picture book.

Yes, tons.

– Write a draft of a picture book.

OK, I’m taking the easy way out on this one and using a picture book draft that I already have, rather than writing something new. I’m sure Ann won’t mind.

So, ‘fess up. How did you do? And what are your thoughts on this first chapter?

Don’t forget to keep reading! I will officially check in on Section 2 on February 26 (she said, hopefully).

31 thoughts on “Craft Book Read-Along: Writing Picture Books – Section 1 Check-in

  1. I’m with Genevieve above. Reading the posts, but not able to do the assignments right now. I’m extremely busy with a writing project. But I love hearing the review!

    • Wow, that is a GREAT question, Cathy! I just looked briefly at the manuscript and no, there definitely is not something new on every page. In fact there are many pages of conversation that don’t show anything new at all. Probably reason #1 (of many) why this book is not successful, in my mind.

  2. I’m reading the books as I get them from my library. I have to “reserve” them from other libraries so that process takes a while. About typing the good and not so good books, I get a fat F. I can’t get myself to type it out so I try to read it without looking at the pictures. Great lesson, though.

    • It is funny — I feel like I hear/read the same bits of advice over and over again in books, in classes, etc., but every time it feels new and revolutionary. Takes a while to internalize, I guess! πŸ™‚

  3. I did all the homework, except for typing out the ‘bad’ PB, and yes I can find them. I usually rush in and out and only just manage to keep my two young boys from running around the library singing loudly while story time is on. So, I quickly grab random books and there is usually something that has me scratching my head, how did that get published? Though the latest was self published and didn’t seem to have the benefit of rigorous editing πŸ˜‰ But I just realized I returned it to the library this morning without typing it out! I’ll have to check this morning’s batch, though I today seem to have grabbed some favorites by happy chance.
    Looking forward to chapter two and more words of wisdom πŸ˜‰

    • That’s great, Yvonne! I know what you mean about the kids. My daughter used to crawl around and pull entire shelf-loads of books off onto the floor. I couldn’t browse with her around at all. She’s a little better now. πŸ™‚

  4. I’m so disorganized at the moment that I thought we were supposed to read Chapter 1 and 2. So technically I’m ahead. πŸ™‚ My comments were going to about how Chapter 2 helped me work out my story question for a couple of existing manuscripts, but I’ll save that for next time them. PS, thanks for you help with the bad book suggestions.

    • Wow! I’m impressed — you’re ahead of me. Next time I’ll be checking in is February 26 — but it will be all of section 2 which I think is 4 chapters or so. Lots to cover. I hope I make it!

      I did read ahead to the story question part and it’s got me really thinking about one of my MS, but I haven’t done the exercises yet.

  5. Hi Carrie,

    I’ve got the book and I made a nice folder for notes and lists but despite that I’m still behind. πŸ˜‰ I’ll keep lurking though!

    • Also– I brought said book and folder to a cafΓ© with me this morning and worked for 2 hours on revisions but they were closing for a lunch break so I didn’t get to work on the read-along. I know it’s my fault but maybe the universe is conspiring against me, a little? πŸ™‚

  6. Thanks for the write-up summary. I read Section 1 months ago, and clearly nothing sunk it since I can’t remember those four points! I think I need to crack open the book again and start highlighting and putting post-it notes in it.
    I am I am going to summarize it further so I can remember it “each page turn should contain a new place, person, action, or emotion” Wish I weren’t at work so I could crack open a picture book and test this out.

    • I always feel bad about writing in books, but I’m writing in this one because it’s helping me remember the key points. What she said in her four points was worded differently from what I’ve written here, but that was my takeaway from the section. It will be an interesting exercise to go through a few books and see if this actually holds true.

  7. Pingback: Craft Book Read-Along: Writing Picture Books – Keeping the Listener Involved with the Story | Story Patch

  8. Hi, Carrie,
    I’ve had this book for years and read parts of it and of course, forgot what I’d read. I’m glad you’ve started this, so I can get back to reading and finishing this book, cuz clearly I NEED it! Thanks so much!

  9. Pingback: Craft Book Read-Along: Writing Picture Books – Making a Picture Book Dummy | Story Patch

  10. Great summary Carrie! “Tap into the excitement of a new discovery” then put that sense of wonder into your story – this is a good point in the first chapter. Also the immediacy of a child’s interaction with the world; everything is urgent, they are ever present in the present πŸ™‚ So as writers, we want our readers to engage immediately. We want them to think, “what’s going to happen next?” as they turn the page.

    • True, Julie. I think most successful PBs are fairly immediate, aren’t they? It’s not usual for weeks or even days to go by in terms of the timeline of the story, although I can think of some where it is clear that time is passing (Officer Buckle and Gloria, for example). But still, the story *feels* immediate.

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