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Writing & Illustrating A Picture Book For Simon & Schuster Children’s, Part 3: Back To The Manuscript

POSTS SO FAR: Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3

Part 1: Intro

Part 2: Brainstorming, Story Pitch, Thumbnail Sketches

(Note: This series of blog posts is NOT meant to The Definitive Guide of how a picture book is created. Your own publishing experience may differ, depending on your situation and people involved. Thanks for following along! — Debbie)

I haven’t posted in this series for a while because my editor and I decided to put the project on hold while I worked on illustrations for NAKED!, a new picture book written by Michael Ian Black. Entertainment Weekly posted the announcement in January, and I received the final version of the manuscript at the beginning of the year. Have been working very hard (but having sooooo much fun!) on the illustrations since then, and handed in the final art earlier this month. I’ll be posting more sample pics on the NAKED! FB Page soon.

Now it’s back to my own project, the very first picture book that I’m writing AND illustrating. Since my last post, I’m delighted to have exciting news:

– It’s been confirmed that Laurent Linn is going to be my art director (YAYYYY!! Laurent was my art director for I’M BORED and NAKED!). 

– Justin Chanda (my editor) and I have picked a title: WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? I know it shouldn’t matter that much, but I have to admit that I screamed a little bit on the phone, I was SO EXCITED.

And though the book isn’t coming out until Spring/2015, I felt compelled (yes, COMPELLED) to create a Facebook Page in celebration of my very first children’s book with writing and illustration credit: If you’re on Facebook, I’d be grateful if you’d Like it. 🙂

Anyway, Justin and I had a phone meeting last week about the mss and thumbnails. Next step for me: go back and revise the mss. Justin says that the picture book dummy I sent him is in good shape, but that there are some awkward bits in the text here and there that don’t read well out loud, plus the ending seems rushed.

He advised me to always read the text out loud (“It changes everything”) to help find places where it doesn’t flow well. If there are sections of the text that are not fun to read out loud, then there’s a problem that needs to be fixed.

Aside: Justin said that the “read aloud” test is good for novels for older readers as well, not just picture books.

So…I’ve gone through the mss many times now, reading it aloud and tweaking. Justin’s asked me to try writing in third-person instead of first-person, and getting rid of some of the dialog that was slowing down parts of the story (and not fun to read out loud).

I am SO enjoying this process. I do not exaggerate when I say that by the end of the phonecall, I had a stupid-happy grin ear-to-ear. I lovelovelove this creative collab aspect.

Justin is a brilliant editor. He’s able to see straight into the heart of what works and doesn’t work in a picture book story, and (just as important) is able to communicate this. He doesn’t micro-manage, but guides me in the right direction and trusts me to follow through. His enthusiasm is infectious and inspiring. 

And I’m learning SO MUCH. 

Here are a few things I’ve learned so far in this whole process:

Writing a picture book mss is easy. Writing a good picture book that is different from anything out there AND has commercial appeal is much more of a challenge.

Awareness of pacing and page-turn placement is vital.

Read the text of your picture story out loud. If there are parts that are not fun to read out loud, then those are problem areas that need to be fixed.

Now, back to work.


This is part of an ongoing series of blog posts about writing and illustrating a picture book for Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers.

Tags: Inkygirl