Saturday, March 21, 2015

Picture Books and Writing/Illustrating

You Can Write! You can Draw! You Can do it All! (But you don't have to.)
I recently was asked a question on my Facebook page, Writing for Children & Young Adults, and I thought I'd share the answer here.

Q: I want to write picture books. Do I have to illustrate my manuscript or find an illustrator before I query an agent or editor?

A: No. Unless you are an illustrator, don't worry about illustrations. Editors frequently like to pair new writers with established illustrators, and while there is a good market for writer/illustrators, it's okay if you are only one or the other.

A few other interesting things all new picture book writers should know:

1. Aim for a word count under 500. I know that doesn't seem like a lot, and yes, we've all seen picture books much longer than that, but one point of a picture book is to let the pictures tell part of the story.

2. Trust your illustrator. Would you want someone to tell you exactly what to write and how? Of course not. In the same way, illustrators don't like to be given detailed instructions regarding manuscripts. Yes, you can mention something that has to be on the page because it's pertinent to the story, but please don't insist on your vision for the illustrations. Illustrators are story tellers, too, and are very good at it. Most often you will love what they add to your story. Let them.

3. The average size of  a picture book is 32 pages. Work to fit your story in that format.

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