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by Margot Finke
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It seems that everyone and their Aunt Fanny wants to write a picture book: especially if Aunty is a famous movie star or pop singer. With this in mind, I thought I would offer a refresher course on the Dos and Donts of picture book writing.
First: If you are famous, you can afford to take writing classes, and learn the craft, before you subject the children of the world to your prose. For those of you who are decidedly un-famous (at least for now), have a day job, not much writing time, and a burning need to write for children, read on. . .
Learn the Basic "Stuff":
- Good grammar and punctuation
- Tight writing use a few carefully chosen words to write a "big" story.
- The benefit of bringing powerful verbs into play.
- How to paint word pictures that will stick in a childs head.
- How to write active paragraphs that easily translate into illustrations
- How to FOCUS on what is important to the story and cut the rest.
- The art of crafting characters kids will identify with and root for.
- Develop a writing "voice" that is unique.
Help is at Hand:
Being a part of the Computer Generation is a huge asset. The Internet is chock full of resources for writers, both good and bad. Sift through them until you find what you need to become a great picture book writer. All of the following can be found with the click of a mouse:
- Terrific online writing classes reasonable fees.
- Friendly and helpful critique groups.
- Online writing email groups and listservs, where you can ask questions - learn from the writing pros., and find critique partners. Below is one such list. There are many others at Yahoo and elsewhere.
- Childrens Writers Subscribe: firstname.lastname@example.org
- "Getting the Most From Your Critique Group," by Heather Horrocks. Read this while looking for the right critique group. It will help you understand the dynamics.
- Surf through many helpful websites by established writers absorb their writing wisdom.
- Join SCBWI (Society of Childrens Writers & Illustrators), go to their writing conferences, and take advantage of all the writing assistance they offer their members.
- Hone your networking skills. Writers conferences and on-line writing lists are great places to network.
- Read every picture book in your local library librarians love helping writers.
- Read about writing for children in the back issues of "Musings," several of which look at other aspects of writing picture books.
- Read other articles in The Purple Crayon the rest of this website is also chock full writing advice and wisdom, courtesy of Harold Underdown.
- Write every chance you get. The saying, "Practice makes perfect," is really true.
To glean further writing insights, visit "Writing Information for Childrens Writers." You will find many links to helpful articles, other websites, and HOW-TO information.
The Facts of (Writing) Life:
Like any other career, writing is a craft that must be learned. Wonderful picture books, full of delightful illustrations, and magical words, do not hit the store shelves by themselves. It takes talent, time, patience, feedback from a good critique group, umpteen rewrites, luck, and that one thing every picture book needs: an editor who thinks your book is worth publishing!
Patience is another attribute writers need by the cart-load.
HAPPY WRITING MATES!
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