My Children's Book Writing course has begun -- and I'm finding it to be way more interesting than I'd thought.
I signed up for the course because it's the closest thing to writing YA that Gotham Writers Workshop offers, at least this semester. I figured I'd just kind of ignore the lectures on crafting picture books and put my energy into writing stuff for older kids and teens. But after learning more about how picture books are constructed, I'm fascinated. It's a lot harder than I thought. It wasn't fair for me to assume this was an "easy" thing to do.
Writing the text for a picture book is almost like putting together a movie script with directionals. For example, the first line might be, "Jim and Joe are friends," and then you'd have a directional, (Jim and Joe hugging each other). These are there so the illustrator has an idea of what to draw ... only you're supposed to keep the drawing suggestions rather vague so the illustrator can have some freedom to interpret the concept. Writing is pretty collaborative, anyway, especially when you're dealing with agents and editors, but this takes it to a whole other level. Picture books are very visual, even for the writers. You might be thinking, "Well, duh!" but it's a challenge for me to think about where the text and picture might go on the page.
Because of this, layout is super important and when writing the text, you have to actually say which page the text should fall on and which pictures should be two-page spreads, etc. Yeah, there are fewer words, but the arrangement is a lot more complex.
And, of course, the story still has to be a good one! There may be fewer than 300 words in a kids' book, but it still has to be a gripping tale that makes sense. Trimming things down to that degree is tough. You have to say what you absolutely mean.
Our homework assignment was to write a character who performs an action that has unexpected consequences -- all said in fewer than 500 words. I came up with a silly idea about my cat that began as a joke ... but ended up with a cute idea for a story. My husband was in hysterics when I read it to him and my friend Amy, who has an 18-month-old son enjoyed it, too. Now I'm wondering if I should actually finish thing thing and submit it somewhere. I have no idea how to go about doing this, at least not yet, but it would be funny if after all this time, I end up selling a story for much younger children.
Meanwhile, I'm still working on my latest YA book, the action/adventure one, and am still doing edits on Novel No. 2. So I have a lot going on! It's all good, though. I like keeping my mind and creativity busy. And props for children's book writers... I have new-found respect for what you do!
Read and review my novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD on Amazon.