Picture Books I: Write Your Story | Christine Nishiyama | Skillshare
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12 Lessons (54m)
    • 1. Trailer

      2:49
    • 2. Intro to Picture Books

      4:48
    • 3. A Brief History of Picture Books

      4:51
    • 4. Structure of a Picture Book

      2:33
    • 5. Coming Up with Your Story Idea

      2:24
    • 6. Plot Structure and Point of View

      7:24
    • 7. Prose and Character Development

      7:56
    • 8. Troubleshooting Plot Issues

      2:34
    • 9. Writing a Good Opening and Ending

      6:53
    • 10. Cutting Your Word Count

      4:54
    • 11. Making a Writer's Dummy

      3:06
    • 12. My 10 Step Process to PB Writing

      3:42
35 students are watching this class

About This Class

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Picture books are weird! Picture books are hilarious! Ideas for picture books are all around you!

This illuminating class, taught by Christine Fleming, author/illustrator at Might Could Studios, is the first of a two-part series on how to create your own children’s picture book: Picture Books I: Write Your Story and Picture Books II: Illustrate your Story.

In this 50-minute class, you’ll learn Christine’s step-by-step process for molding a vague story idea in your head into a sparkling picture book manuscript. You’ll begin by learning what exactly a picture book is, as well as its purpose, inspirational history, and anatomy.

With all that knowledge in your brain, you'll dive into the nitty-gritty of writing your story. Christine will explain how she finds her own story ideas, and how to get that first cringe-worthy draft out of your head and onto the page. Then she’ll take you through her revision process describing the use of plot structure, point of view, prose, rhythm patterns, poetry techniques, and character development. And finally, Christine will chat about common plot issues, what makes an enticing opening and satisfying ending, how to pick a title, reduce word count, and make a writer's dummy to solve pacing issues.

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Plus, there's a bonus locked layer of content explaining the step-by-step process to submit your manuscript to publishers! This booklet is available to enrolled students as soon as they post their process work in the Project Gallery. If you’ve ever dreamed of having your book published, this is the information you need on how to properly submit to publishers and get your story in front of the right people.

This class is perfect for illustrators, designers, writers, and everyone who has ever thought to themselves, “Now that would make a great picture book.” No prior knowledge of writing, picture books, or publishing is required! By the end, you’ll have everything you need (and the inspirational push!) to write an impeccable picture book.

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WANT MORE?

You can see more about Christine and her work at might-could.com

Get weekly essays on creativity and art making here!

Hope to see you in there! :D

Transcripts

1. Trailer: Hi, I'm Christine Pauline and I'm a writer in Illustrator. I graduated from North Carolina State University with a BFA in graphic design. I am now illustrating in both the science and children's editorial markets, as well as writing and illustrating my own fiction and nonfiction picture books. My work has been published in magazines, literalisms, blogs, and educational workbooks. This ghostwrite class is called Picture Books 1, write your story, and it's the first in a two-part series. The second to be released course is called Picture Books 2, Illustrate your story. I'm also the artist and residents at the Science [inaudible] where I help illustrate scientific concepts. Recently, I've partnered with the lead scientist advisory work , to help write and illustrate a forthcoming science-based picture book. I am also an active member in the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators called SCBWI. I've been awarded the honors of SCBWI illustrator of the month and SCBWI featured blog. In this first class, I'll take you through my step-by-step process for molding a vague story idea in your head into a sparkling picture book manuscript. You'll begin by learning what exactly a picture book is, as well as its purpose, inspirational history and anatomy. With all that knowledge in your brain, you'll dive into the nitty-gritty of writing your story. I'll explain how I find my story ideas and how to get that first cringe worthy draft out of your head and onto the page. Then, I'll take you through my revision process describing the use of flat structure, point of view, prose, rhythm patterns, poetry techniques, and character development. Finally, I'll talk about common thought issues. What makes an enticing opening and satisfying ending? How to pick a title, reduce word count, and make a writer's dummy to swap pacing issues. Plus, there's a bonus locked layer of content, explaining the step-by-step process on how to submit your manuscript to publishers. If you've ever dreamed of having your book published, this is the information you need to know, on how to properly submit to publishers and get your story in front of the right people. This class is perfect for illustrators, writers, designers, and anyone whose ever gotten themselves, now that will make a great picture book. By the end of this course, you'll have everything you need to write an impeccable picture book. 2. Intro to Picture Books: Hi everyone. I'm so glad you decided to take this class on Writing Picture Books and I hope you learn a lot throughout the course. As you watch the videos, be sure to follow along with the project guide and post your process work in the project gallery. Work is always better with the help of others. We're going to start off this course with a video called, An Introduction to Picture Books. What is a picture book? A picture book combines words and pictures in a book format aimed at young children. The target audience is children two to eight years old. A picture book is different than an illustrated book, such as a middle grade chapter book because the pictures in a picture book are vital to the story. In an illustrated book, the illustrations are supplements to a text that can stand on its own. Wildwood by Collin Meloy and Carson Ellis is an example of an illustrated book. It is structured more like a chapter book and the illustrations are not necessarily on every page and are sometimes just a small spot illustration. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak is an example of a picture book. There's less text and the illustrations help tell the full story instead of reiterating the story. What is the purpose of a picture book? Reading and being read to creates and strengthens the bond between parent and child. Children can read the pictures while listening to the words, learning the meaning of words and language. Early reader picture books help a child learn to read. Picture books, place value on stories and reading and help children learn how to read a book and follow a text. What is not the purpose of a picture book? The purpose should not be to teach lessons or morals. Children understand more than adults typically give them credit for. A story doesn't need to be blatantly state a moral. For example, "and then little Johnny knew he should share his toys with his little brother." You are a writer or Illustrator, not a teacher. So don't start out your picture book with the intention of teaching a lesson. Tell a good story and the child will interpret the meaning. Let's explore some of the different types of picture books. Board books have a target audience of newborn babies to two year olds. These books are written for very young children that can't yet read. They are made out of cardboard pages so they can hold up to the handling and chewing of babies and young toddlers. An example of a board book is Peekaboo by Nina Laden. The target audience of a concept book are kids from two to eight years old. Concept Books introduce children to themes such as letters, numbers, or shapes. They sometimes tell a story or can be as simple as a list. An example of a concept book is Chika Chika Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr, John Archambault, and illustrated by Lois Ehlert. Easy reader books target kid four to eight years old and novice readers. Easy reader books are also known as early readers or beginner books. These books have more texts than other picture books and are often longer than the 32 page standard of other picture books. They often help children learn to read on their own. An example of an easy reader is Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. Non-fiction picture books, target kids from three to 12 years old. They introduce children to the new concept in a fun and easy to understand way. They are typically more educational than narrative books, but they can have a story line as well. An example of a non-fiction book is Locomotive by Brain Floca. Wordless picture books are aimed at kids two to 12 years old. The stories told completely by illustrations and there are no words. This allows the child to interpret and create the story in their mind to go along with the pictures. These books also allow children who can't yet read, to read a book on their own. An example of a wordless book is Journey by Aaron Becker. 3. A Brief History of Picture Books: A brief history of picture books. Picture books are pretty new invention, with the first books being published in the late 1800s. Randolph Caldecott seen here, is often called the father of the modern picture book. He was a pioneer in merging illustration and text together. He used his illustrations to add new meaning rather than just repeat what was being said in the text. Each year, the Caldecott Medal is given to the illustrator of that year's most distinguished American picture book for children. Let's take a quick look at some of the most successful and admired classic picture books. I'm sure you'll recognize a lot of these from your childhood. The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, published in 1902. The story of Babar by Jean de Brunhoff 1931. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans, 1939. Curious George, by Hans, Augusto Ray and Margaret Rey, 1941. Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Moore, 1942. The book about Moomin, Mymble and Little My by Tove Jansson,1952. Eloise by Kay Thompson, illustrated by Hillary Knight, 1955. The This is Series by M. Sasek spanning 1959-1974. The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss, 1957. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, 1962. Where the Wild things Are by Maurice Sendak, 1963. Best Word Book Ever by Richard Scarry, 1963. Babies by Gyo Fujikawa,1963. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, 1964. Miss Nelson is missing by Harry Allard and James Marshall, 1973. Strega Nona by Tomie depaola , 1975. Okay, now let's look at some more modern picture books. Many of these have won awards like the Caldecott Medal. All of these picture books are considered to be high quality books, but there are also a collection of my personal favorite books. First we have, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond, 1985. The Jolly Postman or Other People's Letters by Janet and Allen Ahlberg,1986. The True Story of Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith, 1989. Click, Clack, Moo by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin, 2000. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Buss by Mo Willems, 2003. A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee, 2008. Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld, 2011. Press Here by Herve Tullet, 2011. I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen, 2011. Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds and Peter Brown, 2012. The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, 2013. Journey by Aaron Becker, 2013. The watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli, 2013. Finally Ball by Mary Sullivan, 2013. 4. Structure of a Picture Book: The structure of a Picture Book. A picture book is typically 32 pages long. This is standard because the pages are printed, folded, and bound in multiples of eight called of signature. Some picture books can be longer than 32 pages, but they are not in the majority because it is more expensive to produce. Your first picture book should stick to 32 pages. Word count can vary greatly, but it's typically somewhere between 0-700 words. I'm going to show you the parts of a picture book using a storyboard layout so you can see all the elements of the book in one flat image. First, we have the front matter. This includes everything in the book before the actual story starts, which is usually around page four or six. The front matter can include any or all of the following: full title, half title, author, illustrator, dedication, publisher, copyright info, editor, art director, and publication date. This is a single page. As I mentioned before, there are typically 32 pages in a picture book. Two pages together form a spread as seen here. The number of spreads in a book can vary depending on how the front matter is laid out and how many pages are necessary. About 12-16 spreads is normal, but it can be more or less. The gutter is in the middle of each spread, where the two pages meet the binding. When illustrating a picture book, the gutter has to be taken into consideration to avoid things getting clipped or lost in the gutter. The back matter includes the author's notes, if there are any. Usually non-fiction picture books will have an author's note to further explain some of the material or history in the book or how the author researched the subject. The end papers are the two pages in the front and back of the book, usually glued to the binding. In papers can be solid color paper or have patterns or illustrations printed on them. 5. Coming Up with Your Story Idea: Coming up with your story idea. Ideas for stories can come from anywhere. It could be activities or things from your childhood that you enjoyed. Funny things your kids or kids you know, say or do. Your favorite animal pet or sibling,a new take on an old story,a funny word, or even little objects that you find. Doesn't this little guy look like he just belongs to a story? Always jot down your ideas as soon as you have them so you don't forget. One way to come up with a picture book idea is to think of a story question. This is a question that your story will answer and provides the plot for the summary. For this class, I'm giving you a story question to use as a springboard for your writing. But you can also choose to develop your own if you'd like.The story question for this class is, "What would happen if a tiger were president?" Picture books are very short and written for children, so it's best to keep your story limited to one question or topic. Having your question in mind when you began writing will also help you keep your writing focused. Now it's time to answer your story question.You can start by just answering it in one sentence and then expand from there.Your primary picture book audience is a child from two to eight. But the person reading the book to that child could be a parent, grandparent, teacher, librarian, any adult. The adults are also the ones buying your book, so it's wise to make the book appealing to them as well. Also consider that the picture books should be easy to read out loud by the adult. Here's some things to consider when thinking about readability. Have a good rhythm, avoid words that are difficult to pronounce, short sentences keep up the pace, onomatopoeia creates drama and fun in reading. Be sure to write a story that the adult won't mind reading again and again. 6. Plot Structure and Point of View: Plot Structure and Point of View. The three act structure is the most typical plot structure, and has a beginning, middle and end. In Act 1, the characters and conflict are introduced. In Act 2, we have the action, low point and climax, and in Act 3, the resolution and ending. The resolution usually happens on pages 30 and 31 with a final wrap up on page 32. Another way to look at the classic picture book structure is that it contains the following in this order. Problem, obstacles, low point, solution and resolution. An example of this plot structure is, "Where The Wild Things Are", by Maurice Sendak. Let's take a look at some other types of picture book plot structures. In circular structure, the stories ending leads back to the beginning. An example of this is, "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie", by Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond. In concept structure, the story focuses on a single topic or category. An example is, "The Day The Crayons Quit", by Drew Dewalt and Oliver Jeffers. In cumulative structure each time a new event occurs, the previous events in the story are repeated. An example is, "Stuck", by Oliver Jeffers. In mirror structure, the second half of the story echoes what happened in the first half of the story. An example is, "A Sick Day for Amos McGee", by Philip C. Stead and Erin E. Stead. In parallel structure, two story lines are taking place at the same time. An example is, "Meanwhile Back at the Ranch", by Trinka Hakes Noble and illustrated by Tony Ross. Finally, in reverse structure, the characters or plot are portrayed in a way that is opposite from the norm. An example is, "Children Make Terrible Pets", by Peter Brown. The story of a child having an animal for a pet is a very familiar story. But the reversal of that story, an animal having a child for a pet is new, original and opposite from the norm. You can use a storyboard format to help you plan out your plot or test your existing plot to see if it fits in the typical picture book format. Just make a chart with 16 squares, like the two I made here in my sketchbook. Each box represents a spread in your book. Then write what happens in each box. You should start out simple like, "Johnnie walked to the dog park." After you've plotted out a few of these plot storyboards and gotten a grasp on your plot and how to organize it, you can begin to refine the outline by expanding the content in each box. Here you can see my first version on the left and then they expanded version on the right. This is a great way to start out writing your book because it helps you plan and focus on the plot rather than on individual words or specifics. Let's take a look at a typical plot outline of a picture book. Keep in mind that these are not rules and not every picture book will or should fit into this outline. This is just a chart of a typical plot and it's a good place to start if it's your first time writing a picture book. For this example, in boxes 1 and 2, we introduce the characters and setting. Then in boxes 3 and 4, the conflict is introduced. In boxes 5 through 11, the first and second obstacles or actions happen. In box 12, the main character comes to their low point and has doubts about overcoming the conflict. In boxes 13 and 14, the third obstacle or action happens. Inbox 15, we have the resolution of the conflict, and inbox 16, all the loose ends are tied up. Having a consistent point of view is also very important in a picture book. Has a major impact on how your story is told, and a changing point of view can drastically change your story. Sometimes after you've written your entire story, it's a good exercise to rewrite it in a different point of view just to see what it's like, you might be surprised. Let's take a look at the three most common types of point of view. Third-person single point of view is the most common point of view in picture books. In this point of view, an outside narrator tells the story and is not a character involved in the story. Single point of view, as the name implies, tells the story from one character's point of view. The narrator only knows, and only tells what that character already knows as it happens. Here's an example of third person single point of view using a photo of my dog, Oni. "Oni looked out into the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains". Here the narrator is an outside voice and is simply telling what Oni sees or does. In third person omniscient point of view, an outside narrator tells the story and is not a character involved in the story just as before. But this narrator knows the story from multiple or all characters point of views. An example could be, "Oni looked out into the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. His friend Kee'an was hiding behind the bushes." See how this narrator can see more than the main character can. This narrator can tell us more than just what Oni knows or sees. In first-person point of view, the narrator is an active character in the story and uses the words "I" and "we" in narration. This allows the writer to write more clearly about emotion of that character, but also limits you to only write about and show what is happening with that one character. An example could be, "I looked out into the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains." Now, Oni is the main character and the narrator. 7. Prose and Character Development: Prose and character development. I've heard for many editors that the decline almost all of the rhyming manuscripts they receive. This isn't because rhyming books are unpopular or unwanted. It's because rhyming is hard and most people are bad at it. I'm still studying and learning the elements of rhyming, I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on it. If you haven't studied rhyming and really understand it, it's easy to get caught up and finding words that rhyme and changing your story or, some tend to fit the rhyme instead of using rhyme to enhance your story. My suggestion would be if you are new to picture, books, or poetry, to stay away from rhyming at first and focus on learning the other elements of writing a successful story. Then once you have a grasp on that, you can move on to studying rhyme. If you'd like to learn more about rhyme, I would recommend writing picture books by Ann Whitford Paul and reading up on children's poetry books like A Child's Anthology of Poetry. Whether you're rhyming or not, you still need to think about rhythm when writing your story. Here's a tip from rhythm master, Dr. Seuss. "Shorten paragraphs and sentences, then shorten words. Use verbs. Let the kids fill in the adjectives. "Think about the beats of the sentences as you write. A beat is a stressed syllable. This means they are pronounced a little longer at a higher pitch for a little longer. Unstressed syllables fall between beats. Here's an example of stress syllables. The dog ran down the stairs. Here are three tips to keep your beat simple. Keep the number of unstressed syllables between beats low. Notice the unstressed syllables are represented by an index and beats or stress syllables are represented by a slash. You can also try to keep the number of beats low and try to use words with only one or two syllables. Different rhythms have different moods. Shorter sentences with fewer syllables between beats create a quicker rhythm. This implies fun and energetic mood. Longer sentences with more syllables between beats create a slower rhythm. This implies a more relaxed, sleepy mood. Let's look at the four most common rhythm patterns. First, we have iambic rhythm, which is a light stressed followed by a heavy stress. When talking about rhythm patterns, the light stresses are often spoken as da, while the heavy stresses are spoken as DUM, to illustrate the pattern. In iambic pattern, the syllables sound like da DUM, da DUM, da DUM. Here's an example. A piece of cake. The trochee rhythm pattern is a heavy stress followed by a light stress. The syllables read DUM da, DUM da, DUM da. For example, dou trou. The dactyl pattern is a heavy stress followed by two light stresses. The syllables read DUM da da, DUM da da, DUM da da. For example, hick dick. The anapest pattern is made of two light stresses followed by a heavy stress. The syllables read da da DUM, da da DUM, da da DUM. For example, towards the night. Writing a picture book is sometimes very similar to writing poetry. Even if you aren't rhyming your story, you can still use poetry techniques. I'm going to go through and explain some of the most common techniques. You probably already know most of these, but may not have thought to consciously put them into your writing. First of, onomatopoeia is a word that represents a sound. He makes reading more fun and dramatic for the adult and the child. The job often remembers the sang words and can read along at these moments. For example, clang, bang, swoosh, or buzz. Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds and the beginning of words. For example, the tiny turtle stared at the terrestrial tortoise. Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds. For example, the early bird catches the worm. Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the middle or end of words. For example, the pitter-patter of rain. Personification is giving human characteristics and personality traits to an animal or inanimate object. For example, the fire alarm screamed at my burnt cakes. Or another example, the spiders twerked in the club. A metaphor is a comparison between two things to give a visual image. For example, life is a ferris wheel that spins you around. Finally, a simile is a comparison between two things using the word "like or as." For example, his bones rattled like a wind chime. Now, let's talk a little bit about character development. Your main character should be likable and relatable, meaning he or she has flaws. It should most likely either be child or animal because children don't usually want to hear too much about adults. They also should be realistic and believable, and independent and strong. Although they don't have to start out that way. It's important that the main character is not dependent on parents and adults, especially in solving the conflict of the story. Your character should want something. This provides the basis, motivation, and conflict for your book. What is their goal? What does he or she have to overcome to get there? How does achieving this goal change the character? These are some things to think about as your character evolves with this story. 8. Troubleshooting Plot Issues: Troubleshooting plot issues. If you feel your plot is failing or landing flat, here are a few tips. Try having your character overcome or confront three obstacles instead of just one. The repetition of three things is common in stories. Make sure your action is dependent on prior action. Meaning, don't have coincidences popping up that appear random. Escalate your plot in order. If you have three obstacles, have the character tackle them in order from easiest to hardest, or at least exciting to most exciting. The hardest obstacle will then be your climax. Increase the suspense or tension by making the reader worry, that the character will overcome the obstacles. You should try to avoid writing visual descriptions. As the writer, you should focus on creating action and dialogue. Descriptions will be communicated by the illustrator. For example, you don't need to write that your character has red hair unless that fact is absolutely vital to the story for some reason. Things like hair color, will be shown in the illustrations, and shouldn't be repeated in both words and pictures. If you're the illustrator, you can focus on these things once you begin drawing. If you are not the illustrator, trust in your future illustrator to use their creativity to best show the characters and the story. Descriptive language is tricky. We're writing a picture book and not a novel so you have to be careful with word count. But one tip I hear often is, don't write the summary of a scene, write the scene. For example, instead of writing, "Max was bored," what about, "Max flopped down on the couch and stared at the ceiling" You still get the same idea across, but you're writing what the character does, rather than just a statement of a feeling. Both options could work well, and it all depends on who your audience is, what you're trying to say, and what your word count is. 9. Writing a Good Opening and Ending: Writing a good opening and ending. The first page are couple of lines in your story should aim to make a few things clear immediately. Who is the main character? What does he or she want? I.e, what is the conflict? What is the setting? What kind of story is this? Funny, sleepy, silly. Why should I keep reading? You've got to hook the reader as quickly as possible. Here's an example of a nice opening page from Don't Let Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems. It reads, "Hi, I'm the bus driver, listen, I've got leave for a little while. Can you watch things for me until I get back? Thanks. Oh, and remember, Don't Let Pigeon Drive the Bus." Now let's compare this opening page to our list of criteria from before. Do we know who the main character is? It isn't completely clear, but I've made the guess that pigeon is the main character since the bus driver is leaving the story on the first page, and pigeon's name isn't the title. Okay, so what does the main character want? I think we can assume that pigeon wants to drive the bus. What is the setting? This one is a little tricky, especially for this book. There's no setting really just a pigeon, a driver, and a bus, so in that case, it does show us the setting. What kind of story is this going to be? The concept and casual conversation or dialogue implies a quirky, funny story. Does it hook the reader? Yes. The thought of a pigeon driving a bus is absurd. Why would the driver asks us to watch his bus and then give us such a weird warning? The first page you makes you really want to find out why this warning was given, and if the pigeon actually gets to drive the bus. Here are some questions to ask yourself about the ending. Would most people guess the ending before it happens? Does it solve the problem or conflict posed in the beginning? Is the main character, the one that came to the solution? Did the main character go through a transformation or change to get to this ending? Does the ending seem a little too convenient or easy? Does it blatantly state a message? Remember, leave it up to the reader to interpret the message, and it does leave the reader with something. Where the wild things are by Maurice Sendak is a great example of a successful picture about the ending. The final two pages of the book read. "And sailed back over a year and in and out for weeks, and through a day and into the night of his very own room where he found his supper waiting for him, and it was still hot". Okay, now let's look at it against our criteria for a good ending. Is the ending predictable? No. Is the conflict overcome and the problem solved? Yes. Max returns home and has controlled his anger or his inner wild thing. Did the main characters solve the problem? Yes. Max came to the realization and [inaudible]. Is the main character transformed? Yes. He has transformed from being a wild thing all the time to being able to control his inner wild thing. Is the envying convenient? No. Is there a blatant message? No. There definitely is a message, but it doesn't stay on the last page. Then Max came home and was no longer angry at his mom, and his mom was also not angry because she was still as mom and loves him. Would that be boring? Is the reader left with something? Yes. The reader feels Max's emotions of relief, love, and comfort. A picture book creator needs to consider page turns, both when writing and illustrating the book. You have to entice the reader to keep reading by hooking them into the story, which is often called a page turn. This can be done in many ways. Ask a question, show tension, confrontation, or excitement, action, or unfinished sentence. Here are a few elements of a successful title. Keep it short so it will be easy to remember. It should be fun to say, try using some of the poetry techniques. It should be original, be sure to google your title to make sure it doesn't already exist in a similar book. Not too abstract, you want to give the reader an idea of what the book is about. It should set the tone of the overall book. Is this a funny book? A bedtime book? A silly book? Have your title reflect that. Easy to pronounce. You want people, especially a child, to be able to repeat it easily. You can consider using a line from your book or your character's name as the title. One of my favorite picture book titles is The Adventure of Beekle, the imaginary friend by Dan Santa. In conversation, most people shorten this title to simply call the book Beekle. The title is long, but it can also be easily shortened. The made-up word Beekle is very original and quirky, which makes the title memorable. The longer title lets us assume that the story will be about an imaginary friend named Beekle, but it also makes us wonder what unimaginably friend is. The made-up words and the phrase adventures have, tells us that this will be a slightly silly, imaginative, upbeat, and exciting story. 10. Cutting Your Word Count: Cutting your word count. Everyone has different criteria and preferences, but your picture book manuscript should typically be between zero and 700 words. Writing a picture book is very similar to writing poetry, you want to just use the necessary words without excess. The first manuscript I wrote was 1,200 words, so don't worry, it's natural to overwrite in the beginning. The more you write and edit, the better you'll get at writing with brevity. If you find your manuscript is too long, try some of these tactics. Delete descriptions. Deleting visual descriptions is a great way to lower your word count. Remember, these will be shown in the pictures so you don't want to waste precious words on them. Delete adjectives. Instead of writing the girl in the green jacket hugged the cat, try writing the girl hugged the cat. The illustrator can show that the jacket is green, so that word is unnecessary, this gets rid of four words. Delete adverbs. Instead of writing, ''He ate his food quickly,'' what about, he gobbled his foo? Using a more specific verb, like gobbled, rather than a verb and adverb, ''ate quickly,'' allows you to have one less word and is more exciting. Use active verbs. Here's an example of a passive verb, ''The cake was eaten by the boy.'' Here's the better option of using an active verb, ''The boy ate the cake.'' This gets rid of two words and focuses on the action. Delete qualifying words. Qualifying words include words like really, very, almost, and just. For example, she was very obsessed with Facebook. This could be rewritten as, she was obsessed with Facebook. You can either delete the qualifying word or replace the qualifying word and adjective with a more descriptive verb. In this case, you could rewrite it as, ''She was transfixed with Facebook.'' But be careful that your words don't get too complex for your audience. Most kids probably don't know what transfixed means. Delete extra words. There are some words that we all use in conversation and in casual writing, but when writing a picture book, these words just take up unnecessary space. Try deleting some of these from your manuscript. There were, there was, it was. For example, there was a girl twirling on the table. This can become, ''A girl twirled on the table.'' This gets rid of two words and is a more active sentence rather than passive. He saw, he looked, he heard.. For example, Sarah heard her parents shouting in the kitchen. This can be rewritten as, ''Sarah's parents shouted in the kitchen.'' The pictures and story leading up to this sentence, will make it clear that Sarah heard them, sol we can get rid of these two words. Which was, which is. An example of this could be, the plane which was powerful took off, and can be rewritten as, ''The powerful plane took off.'' This gets rid of two words and has a more natural flow. Who was, who is. An example could be, the dog who was well trained pointed at the cat, and this can be simplified to, ''The well-trained dog pointed at the cat.'' Also be sure to skip parts of your story that aren't important to the story. If it isn't important how the student got to the school, you don't have to write whether they drove, walked, or rode their bike to school. If it doesn't propel the story forward, then don't write it. You only have so many words to use in a picture but text, so choose wisely. 11. Making a Writer's Dummy: Making a Writer's Dummy. A dummy is a mock up book made from folded paper. Making what I call a writer's dummy, like in this picture, with just the texts from your manuscript, no illustrations can help you refine the pacing and page turns in your book. It lets you have the experience of reading your story as a book rather than a flat manuscript. Once you make the dummy, you can move the text around, rearranging and trying out different page turns and text organization. Seeing your story as a dummy also immediately shows you if you have too much text to fit in the picture book format. The first time I made my word dummy, I realized I had way too much text on each page and went back to my manuscript to cut down the word count. Seeing your manuscript in book form makes flaws like this much more obvious. So let's take a look at how to make a writer's dummy. First, cut eight pages of the same size rectangular paper and stack them together. I usually make mine small just to save paper. Fold the pieces in half, now you've got a 32 page booklet. Label, which pages in the front matter will be used. Half title, copyright, dedication, and anything else you'd like to include. Then print out your manuscript and cut out each paragraph, stanza, or sentence, however you think it will fall on the pages. Lightly tape the paragraphs to the pages. You may need to do some rearranging to figure out how to break up the story. But that's exactly what the dummy is for. Once you're done, read the dummy out loud to see how it flows. Take a hard look and show it to others if you feel ready. Here are some things to consider about your dummy. Do you have leftover pages that weren't used? Maybe you need to consider spacing out your text more. Do you have a lot of text on each page or some pages? Maybe you need to cut words from your manuscript or break up the text more. Does the reader know what the story is about within the first three pages, not including a front matter? You need to get to the story quickly. Is there tension in the story that makes you want to turn the page? Does your climax happen too early or too late in the book? Do you have a strong last line on page 32? Based on what you've learned from the dummy, it's time to rewrite some more. 12. My 10 Step Process to PB Writing: My Process: Putting it all together. Now that you've been bombarded with information, let's do a quick recap. Here's my step-by-step process of writing a picture book. Step one, have an idea, write it down. Write the first draft and make a plot storyboard. Flesh out the story. Revise, revise, revise. Refine elements including the opening, ending, plot structure, scenes, rhythm and prose, and character development. Cut word count. Make a writer's dummy and revise more. Experiment and choose a title, and finally, get outside critiques and rewrite more. Then, because I am a writer and illustrator, I move onto the illustration side of the process including sketches, character development, storyboards, and illustrated dummy. You now have a complete manuscript and an amazing story. Pat yourself on the back and go reward yourself with some ice cream. Now what? Don't just let your story be buried forever in the back of your filing cabinet to sit there and die a sad and lonely life. You have three options for continuing with your story. If you're an aspiring illustrator and writer, you should check out the next class in this series, Picture Books II: Illustrate Your Story. This class will be released shortly, and it will just everything you need to know about illustrating a picture book. You're welcome and encouraged to illustrate the story you wrote for this course in the next class. Or if you choose, there will be a story available for you to illustrate. If you're the writer and don't wish to be the illustrator, there is an extra level of locked content in this class on how to submit your manuscript to publishers. All you have to do to unlock this content is post some process work from your story to the project gallery. You can post anything you'd like, your idea, your first draft, a photo of your dummy, your final manuscript, anything that shows your progress. After you've posted, e-mail me at this address to let me know and I'll send you the document. Or you can stop here and be proud of yourself for having written that great story. Thanks so much for taking this class. I hope you learned something valuable and really enjoyed it. I can't wait to read all of your stories and I hope to see you in the next class as well.