If the classic picture book structure is your favorite and you want to stick with it, make sure you hit all the important points when drafting your story. Here's an easy model to follow – apply it to your manuscript spread by spread, find what's missing or where your pace is disturbed, then modify, mold, and master!
[For a 32-page picture book, you'll have fourteen spreads in which to fit your story.]
1. Introduce your main character (MC) and show us something interesting or special about him/her: skills, quirks, relationships etc. This is also where you set the expectation of tone, type of story, and voice.
2. Establish the MC's normal world. What's the setting? Does the setting play a special role in your story?
3. Develop MC even further. What does he/she want? You might introduce a secondary character.
4. Inciting incident: something happens that disturbs the "normal" and prompts the MC to take action. The MC needs to do something about it, either to restore the balance or to take a step toward their goal/desire that they've had at the beginning.
5. First try: MC fails and the situation gets worse. This failure also brings a little change in him/her. It helps the MC learn more about the world or himself.
6. Second try: MC fails again. Tension escalates. MC has a bit of a different perspective. He learns something from this failure, too.
7. Third try: MC fails once again. This time it seems like all is lost and there's no way out of the mess.
8. MC reflects on the situation and contemplates his next move. MC gets past the defeat, finds hope, and the motivation to try again.
9. MC gathers his/her strength and skills learned from previous experience and makes a decision to solve his/her problem in a different way.
10. The preparation: does the MC need to gather supplies, resources or dig deeper to ensure success this time?
11. Final battle. The MC makes the biggest effort here, using all of his/her previous lessons learned and new resources.
12. MC wins! He/she solves the problem. You can use a twist, a surprise, or a clever solution here. The most important thing is that no one else solves the problem for your MC. It should not feel like a coincidence, either. The more original this part is, the more of the "golden factor" your book will have. Don't use the first idea that comes to mind. Search further and think outside-the-box.
13. A satisfying ending. MC might not get exactly what he/she wanted, but what they need. Tie it back to the beginning.
14. MC is changed as a result of his journey. Show the "new normal" for your MC with a hint of what the future might look like for them. Finish on a positive, hopeful or humorous note, depending on the tone and type of story. Make sure it matches what you've established for the story's world from the get-go.
That's it! There's some wiggle room here and there, but overall this model should give you some guidance on how to develop your classic structured picture book.
This is only the frame to get you started with your draft. As for the rest of the elements that make for a great picture book, like an original idea, vocabulary, voice, literary devices, imagery, page turns, illustration potential etc., those are subject to future posts.
Leave a comment and share your biggest challenges, advice or thoughts on crafting your classic structured picture book.
You can't wait any longer? Are you this excited? I know I am and so, as promised, it's time for Sarah's Song cover reveal . . .
I know I'm partial, but I give it two thumbs up! Thank you, Emma Allen, for the beautiful art! It's a great honor to have you as a partner for this book and I can't wait for us to share it with the world (releases 9/05/17, will be available for pre-order soon).
I believe kids will give it two thumbs up, too.
If you ever get stuck and need some inspiration to come up with new picture book ideas, here are five ways to help ignite your creativity:
1. Think back to your childhood experiences.
Try to remember times when you were surprised, scared, excited, hurt or disappointed. What was the reason in each of those situations? How did you react? Did you learn anything? Did you confide in your best friend? Looking back, what do you wish was different?
Turn one of those experiences into an adventure. Or a silly tale. Re-imagine one of the above scenarios as a funny story. Or perhaps a sweet story.
You can also mix and match. For each experience you remember, write the main components -- feeling, reason, outcome -- on a separate piece of paper. Fold your little notes and put them in three different jars. Draw one note from each jar and write that story. Even if you think it won't make sense, find a way to make it work. I'm sure that the more absurd the "plot" you have to work with, the more it'll spark your imagination and the result can be fresh and original.
2. Read a variety of picture book.
I often find my ideas that way. Not by copying, but by turning the story on its head. Sometimes, I imagine the plot as the opposite of what I read. I also change the emotional landscape.
Other times, it might be helpful to just take the theme of the story and consider it from a different angle. (Always research to make sure this hasn't been done already.)
3. Talk to kids.
Friends, neighbors, your own . . . Ask them about their day. Can they share something funny that happened recently or something that made them mad?
And if you just ask them for story ideas, they are very willing and excited to help and they come up with the craziest, most unexpected suggestions!
4. Flip through kids magazines.
Read the article titles. They're usually catchy and straight to the point. How can you turn that into a story? Some magazines include funny or clever kids' quotes, as well as parent letters. See if any of those could make a great story.
5. Look at illustrator portfolios online.
You might stumble upon a character that speaks to you, begging you to tell his/her story. Or you might discover a scene that evokes an emotion behind which lies an untold story. Your story.
If you see something that you like, ask yourself questions. Why is this stork frowning at the birthday cake? What made that frog laugh? What would make this little boy jump with excitement? Why are all the animals staring at the green goat? Why is it green?
Whatever the scene is that the illustrator captured, try to come up with a few possibilities about what happened right before that moment and what is about to happen next. Write them down. Mix and match again if you must.
And there you are! Off you go creating, no need to wait for the muse.
I hope this list will be of some help to you next time you brainstorm story ideas.
If you would, leave me a comment and let me know which of the above you'll try next or what are some other ways or tricks you use to come up with new ideas.
It. Was. Wonderful!
I recently had a story time and book signing at one of the Barnes & Noble stores in my area. I was both nervous and excited and wasn't sure what to expect or if people would even show up, despite my various promotional efforts.
Happy to report that people did show up and the crowd was fabulous! There was energy in the room, I didn't stumble, I didn't fall (thank God!) and all went well. I signed a lot of books--at one point, when I looked up, there was a little line up.
A big thank you to the store's event manager, Suzanne, and the staff who made this possible. Thank you to my family and friends for the support, and thank you, God, for your grace!
7 Things to Do for Your Book Signing
1. Invite everyone you know plus random people you barely know. Or strangers.
2. Run a Facebook ad. It doesn't have to be expensive. I had mine up for 25 days prior to the event and targeted a 20-mile radius area around the store for $36.
3. Create a Facebook event on your Author Page--assuming you have one (you should!)--and boost it.
4. Have swag ready for your event--bookmarks, buttons, stickers etc. Bring small treats for the kids, but make sure you get the store's approval. I also brought a paper plate bear craft and coloring pages that the kids enjoyed doing after story time.
5. Show up early to help set up. Be nice and thank the staff for their work on your event.
6. Assign a friend to take pictures.
7. Be present in the moment. Talk to your guests and enjoy!
How about you? Have you hosted your bookstore author event yet or planning one? Please add any other suggestions or questions in the comments. Thank you!
I am delighted to have my friend, Jackie Kruzie--a picture book writer and also our SCBWI Regional Adviser--guest post on my blog today.
Jackie shares her experience on building a platform as a pre-published author and gives us advice on how to treat writing as a business. For some of you, putting yourself out there might come easily, but for most of us, introverts, it's quite a stretch. Read on to find out how Jackie did it.
Please let us know what you think in the comments and I invite you to share your own experience getting out of your comfort zone as well.
Here's Jackie . . .
Put On Your Beyoncé
By Jackie Kruzie
I am so excited for my friend Rosie and the release of her picture book “If I Weren’t With You” Rosie has been a mentor to me and I am thrilled she has asked me to write a post for her blog.
Chances are if you are a writer you are an introvert. I certainly am. I cower at the thought of public speaking, self-promotion, pretty much anything that requires me to actually talk to people.
Yet, here I am putting myself out there. Why? Because I want to be a successful writer. To achieve that goal, I have to be active in my writing business. That’s right, writing is a business. I wish that all I had to do was furiously clickity clack away on my computer, but the deeper I dive into the writing world the more I find myself doing things like this:
Yep, there I am standing in front of a group of 5th graders worrying if my hair looks good, if my shirt makes me look pregnant, if I smell like sweat and fear. Over the past couple of years, I have found myself the center of attention more and more. I’ve conducted writing workshops for children and adults, hosted conferences, and been a guest blogger. And guess what? I’m not even published yet! You may be wondering how this all came to be for an admitted introvert with social anxiety and a fear of public speaking. I’ll tell you in one word…Beyoncé.
Beyoncé has an alter ego she named Sasha Fierce. When she goes on stage she becomes Sasha Fierce, and Sasha is fierce. She has the courage to do things Beyoncé wouldn’t dream of doing. So, I took Queen B’s advice and created an alter ego of my own. I call her Beyoncé. Yes, I know that isn’t the most imaginative name, but who wouldn’t want to be a mega star with beauty, poise, and confidence?
With my alter ego securely fastened, I did something I never thought I would do. I volunteered. I attended an SCBWI meeting where the Regional Advisor asked if anyone would be willing to write a blog post for our chapter’s website. My hand went up (Beyoncé did it). I rocked that post. I rocked it so hard, I was asked to be the Social Media Captain for my SCBWI chapter. Now, I know that my writing didn’t blow anyone’s mind. I am pretty sure the reason I was asked was because I showed willingness to contribute, but nevertheless I was asked and I accepted.
I rocked that too. I was so good at being Social Media Captain that I was asked to be Assistant Regional Advisor. Again, it was due more to my willingness to help than actual skill. Not too long after I rocked at being Assistant I took over as Regional Advisor.
Thanks to this new position, I was thrust into the lime light. Suddenly people were looking to me to teach, guide, and even entertain them. I got busy researching. Some of my research required me to ask questions (GULP!) I had to bypass my social anxiety and reach out to other Regional Advisors, SCBWI members, published authors, teachers, and librarians. Turns out I’m a likable person and I made lots of good friends and good connections. Those connections facilitated in earning invitations to speak to children at schools about writing. I created a workshop I call The Young Author’s Workshop that teaches elementary students the fundamentals of writing a creative work of fiction. Teachers and librarians talk y’all, and soon I was receiving emails requesting my workshop.
Now, time for a funny story. I was on an airplane headed to Utah to do one of my Young Writer’s Workshops when I struck up a conversation with the woman next me (thanks again Beyoncé). Turns out she was an elementary teacher and was interested in my program. We exchanged cards (get cards). About a week later she emailed me saying that she had spoken to her principal and they were all set for my visit.
The story isn’t over yet, folks. In the spirit of volunteering, since it worked out for me previously, I decided to volunteer at my local library. I rocked it (really I just kept asking “what can I do to help?) A few weeks after volunteering I was asked to be on the library board. It’s amazing what doors will open when you genuinely wish to help an organization succeed. Now I am able to add books to the library’s collection, plan the summer reading program, and implement adult educational programs.
Don’t forget, I am a pre-published author. However, each experience has not only improved my writing, but has provided some impressive credentials to put in the bio paragraph of my queries.
So, let’s break it down nice and easy for all those who only read the bullet points of blog posts (we’re all guilty of it from time to time).
Tip #1 – Create an alter ego
Tip #2 – Volunteer
Tip #3 – Hone your skills. Not just writing skills, but presentation, planning, and public speaking skills
Tip #4 – Talk to people. Get business cards and pass them out. Make connections, ask for help, and help others (I didn’t cover this in the post, but it is VERY VERY IMPORTANT. The kid lit world is full of generous people. Help others and they will help you).
Tip #5 – Rock at everything you do. I joked about this (at least I hope you know I was joking, I’m not that conceited), but there is a bit of truth in it. Be reliable, trustworthy, and constantly improve.
Thank you to everyone who has helped me. It’s my turn to pay it forward. I hope you have found insight and inspiration in this post and I apologize for my numerous use of the word Beyoncé.
Jackie Kruzie is a picture book author and creator of The Young Author’s Workshop. She is the regional advisor for SCBWI North Texas and serves on the library board for the Gunter Library and Museum. She enjoys country living with her husband, 5 children, 2 cats, and numerous cattle and longhorns. Connect with Jackie through her blog at jaclynkruzie.com and on Facebook and Twitter.
Release day is coming soon! IF I WEREN'T WITH YOU will be out on April 4th, but there's still time to snag a swag pack with your pre-order! The #giveaway ends on 4/3/17, valid for U.S. residents only, while supplies last. A gift bag with pins, a magnet, stickers, signed cards and bookmarks is coming your way. Just send me your snail mail address using the contact form on my site and proof of purchase. One lucky winner will also get this cute huggable bear!
Click on the book image to pre-order your copy of
IF I WEREN'T WITH YOU
Curious? It's Time . . .
To get a swag bag with your preorder (U.S., first 25 only) please use the contact form on this site to send me your mailing address and I will mail you your goodies. Share on social media and tag me. One random lucky winner will also get a huggable stuffed bear!
As a new writer building a platform, or a new author trying to reach a wide audience, how essential is blogging? And I'm not talking about guest blog posts here and there.
This question has been on my mind for a long time. Actually, it was more like, To Blog or Not To Blog? (Hey, I'm allowed to use cliches in my mind!)
Well, ideally, the answer is yes, I would love to have the time and energy and wisdom to share smart, useful, funny stories or practical tips, advice, experiences about writing, life and the world in general with whoever would like to listen to me on a daily or weekly basis. The truth is, I don't always have all these things lined up for me and so I've steered away from blogging for a long time. Why start something I can't trully commit to? Plus, I am a huge introvert and I tend to keep things to myself.
The other thing was, even though I'm a writer, writing a blog post has always felt somewhat intimidating as opposed to writing fiction. For kids. It's more like bare-your- soul type of thing and not hide-behind-your-characters thing. Again, the introvert nature I mentioned above. Even this confession feels uncomfortable. But! Lately, I've been slowly but surely parting ways with a lot of "comfort" in the name of living greater experiences.
Some examples--and I realize I digress--in the last couple of weeks, I've summoned the courage for a bunch of firsts: I jumped off a cliff into a cenote in Mexico, snorkeled in a dark cave, rock climbed down a cave wall into the water and tried FIVE long ziplines through the jungle. I might post picture at some point... Anyone who knows me would see how BIG this is for me.
Anyway. This was about blogging. So what happened with my contemplating the idea?
No. I would not get on board. There was no way I could blog. Nope. Then, I accidently set up a blog page on my new website while creating the "About" page and somehow, I refrained from deleting it. In a writerly habit, I asked myself, What If? What if I do decide to blog? (very unlikely!) What if, once in a while, I feel the need to share an experience (people might judge!), or I come up with some wise advice (what? it's possible) or I'm just plain bored (almost impossible!) and I self-entertain by typing random musings (risky!) and release them into cyberspace? All valid questions, right?
So here we are, my very first blog post out of my own very first blog EVER! Hooray!
In the spirit of progress, and because I'm all about learning, stretching my mind and, at this stage of my life, conquering new challenges without over thinking, I'm glad I took this step. Now if I only click "Post" anytime soon... (Ugh. After proofreading for the 57th time I still kept finding typos. Seriously?! Where's my editor for this thing?)
How about you? What have you done lately outside of your comfort zone? Please share in the comments.
About the Author
Rosie J. Pova is a prolific children's writer, a wife and a mother of three.
Ever since childhood, Rosie has had a passion for writing and has been fascinated with the power of words. She has written essays, short stories and poetry in Bulgarian and French as a young girl, but as a grown-up, her writing gave way to family, jobs and just life. Until 2004, when she revisited her love for story-making, a few years after becoming a mom.
Rosie is originally from Bulgaria now living in Texas with her husband and three kids. She writes primarily for children of all age groups, as well as poetry.
Rosie dreams of inviting many readers into her make-believe worlds and hopes to touch hearts with her words.
Rosie J. Pova is represented by Marisa Corvisiero of Corvisiero Literary Agency.