Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Revising Picture Books

Someone once asked me, "Why do you go back and make so many changes? If you are a good writer, your first draft should be good enough."

Well, those might not have been his exact words, but the gist of it was - why make so many changes? Why go over it again and again? Why, why, why?

Why? Because picture book writing is not as easy as non-writers think it is.

Sure, there are fewer words.
Sure, they are for young children.
But, younger readers are as important as older readers. Maybe, more important. We need to get children interested and excited about reading, so they will continue to read into adulthood.

I have been editing my latest picture book. I guess you could say it is fiction and non-fiction. I have a cute little story, with sidebar non-fiction information to go along with it. I had a bumpy start writing it, but I finally got past the problems and started to work on the words.

In picture books, every word counts. You search your mind, your thesaurus, your friends' minds and online sources for the best words. Picture book writing is one genre where I don't balk at using ing words. They can add to the flow and rhythm of the story. Instead of saying, they zoom, say zooming. Instead of saying, They dart everywhere, say Darting everywhere.

Use specific words.
Use great action words.
Use onomatopoeia (sound words)! 
I have found taking out the or replacing the with these makes a big difference. 
I have found replacing them and they with specific words makes a big difference.

Most importantly, I have found that going back over a manuscript that I thought was just right - makes a big difference. 

Do not be afraid to take suggestions from fellow writers. It will still be your story!

At the end of our writers' meeting a few weeks ago, a member made an almost inaudible remark and said you could say something like " --- ", and it was the perfect end to a stanza I was having problems with! (You notice I'm not telling the phrase. I don't want to give away what my story is about)

Do you have any suggestions to making the perfect picture book?

I (and my readers) are open to suggestions. 

By the way. I had a great time last week when my husband and I went to see Henry Winkler, co-author of the Hank Zipzer books!

Happy Writing!


  1. Ooo, great tips, Janet. Love this post. Love the pic with Henry Winkler. Great smiles on those faces! My suggestion is to think in pictures as you write. It helps with pacing. Wordplay is very important. And great verb use as you said.

    1. Hi Robyn. Thanks for coming over and thanks for your suggestions!

  2. Thanks for these tips. I'm editing a PB manuscript right now and this is helpful.

    1. Hi Rosi. Glad to be of help. We writers are a team!

  3. If only the first draft were good enough. Nice thought. To me, picture books are harder to write than novels, even though they're much shorter. That's the key. Like you say, every word is important and has to add to the story. You make very good points, Janet. I'm waiting to read that last line in a book. Best of luck with your revisions.

    1. Thanks, Beverly. That would be nice, wouldn't it? But, then we wouldn't have the fun of revising.

  4. The first draft should be good enough? Oh, dear.

  5. I don't write PB, but your tips helped me, too. So glad your time with Henry Winkler was a memorable experience. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Great tips on picture books! Love the picture! How exciting to meet "the Fonz".


Thank you for your comments. I love comments!