To write the first draft of a picture book text, just write a story. That’s is. Seems easy enough right? Keep in mind that you want it to be short and you’ll leave visual details to the illustrator, but, otherwise, write the story.
There are a few things you don’t have to worry about when you are writing a first draft.
Vocabulary: Picture book vocabulary doesn’t have to be limited, because usually an adult is reading the story to a child. Don’t limit yourself on this first draft, you can always “dumb” it down later.
Style: Just relax and just write. The first thing I like to do when drafting a story is print out my FREE Storyboard Template. It helps get my ideas lined up.
Length: Remember you’re writing a picture book, and there will be illustration to depict your scenery. Get all your ideas on paper, it doesn’t matter much on this first draft, unless you go over 10 typed double-spaced pages. And even if you do, you will have content for your next book! Who knows, you could have a book series on your hands.
When I was drafting Champ and Nessie and Sandy the Cat, after getting my goal worksheet filled out, and typing up a story, I printed out several storyboard templates. I just started writing, filling the pages, and when I had the entire 32 page outline finished, the real work began. Everyone’s process is going to be different, but the steps you need to follow are the same. Utilizing a storyboard is the easiest way to organize your ideas, so you can discuss them with others on your team, and more importantly, you illustrator. Or if you are illustrating yourself, it will serve as a road map or you. A storyboard can be incredibly detailed, or not. The main premise of it is to identify key scenes and establish the timeline of how those scenes will play out in your story. The point of the storyboard is to provide visual clarity and keep everyone on the same page. It’s not supposed to be a work of art in and of itself. Next to or below each cell, fill in your description of what’s happening in the scene and you can even include dialogue that will take place.
When I say “Just Write” I mean it. JUST WRITE. You will be amazed where your imagination will lead you.
One of the most common questions I get from new self-publishers is, “What do I put on the copyright page?” For some reason, the copyright page seems intimidating with its legalistic language and weird numbers. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are many different ways to layout your copyright page. After looking at 100’s of books in my genre, I noticed that every copyright page was slightly different. Some were very simple, and some were more complex. I opted for a very simple copyright page for Champ and Nessie, and Sandy the Cat. There are a few things that must appear on your copyright page, but it’s up to you how much more information you want to add in after that.
What is a Copyright page?
The Copyright page carries the copyright notice, edition information, publication information, printing history, cataloging data, legal notices, and the books ISBN or identification number. In addition, rows of numbers are sometimes printed at the bottom of the page to indicate the year and number of the printing. Credits for design, production, editing and illustration are also commonly listed on the copyright page.
Do I need to purchase a Copyright?
Your book is protected by copyright laws from the minute you write it, but for added protection against theft, you can file for an official copyright through the U.S. Copyright Office. It is not necessary for the book to be published for you to apply for a copyright.
What Has to be on Your Copyright Page No Matter What?
The single most important element on the copyright page is, no surprise, the copyright notice itself. It usually consists of three elements:
Many of these items may not be applicable to your book, but this is where the publisher has to fit all the legal notices and other information for use by the book trade. Keep in mind that a reservation of rights is vital, and the publisher’s contact information is practical and appropriate. So here’s the rundown of other elements on the copyright page:
Reservation of rights, where you outline what rights you reserve and which you allow.
Publisher’s editorial address. Larger publishers will likely include…Ordering information, Trademark notices, Catalog and Publication Data.
Edition of the book. For instance, a second edition might or might not be noted on the title page, but will definitely be indicated on the copyright page.
Printings and years indicators. These are the odd strings of “funny numbers” often seen near the bottom of the copyright page. This is for the use of the publisher’s production department, and is likely to become obsolete (or so I read).
When it comes to creating your own copyright page, pick the elements that seem most suitable to your book. Keep the whole thing as simple as possible and you can’t go wrong. Especially for a Children’s Book’s, I would suggest doing a simple copyright, see below. Click here to download.
Your manuscript is ready, your cover is on point, your illustrations (if you have any) are amazing. Now, its time to write your book synopsis, or back cover blurb. You ask yourself, “Where do I begin?” Well friends, read on…
A synopsis is a one-page, single-spaced, summary of your book. Typically written in third person, present tense. The synopsis should give the reader a clear idea of what happens in the story. It should also be interesting to read and focus on the main characters and the driving plot. A great synopsis is compelling and will leave the reader wanting more.
Depending on your niche/genre, the type of information your synopsis will have can vary. If you are writing a children’s book blurb, you will want it to be playful or funny. Reflect the silly, adventurous, curious or loving nature of your characters. If you are writing a chapter book or novel, you will need to set up your synopsis to reflect the context throughout the story, without giving any too many spoilers. A good rule of thumb is to have a three part synopsis. Three paragraphs, pertaining to the beginning (1), middle (2) and end (3). When you read your synopsis, it should introduce us to your characters, the setting of your story/or premise of the book, and the event or circumstances that leads us into the climax. You don’t want to give away the solution, but merely get the reader excited to want more. And ultimately, buy your book to find out what happens.
When you start to write your synopsis, ask yourself these questions – Who? What? Why? When? They cut to the chase and will pull the reader into your story. Don’t get bogged down with detailed specifics, keep it moving and find ways to connect the plot points without slowing your reader down.
Try my FREE scrap sheet to help you brainstorm. Print out a bunch and just start writing down ideas. Take your favorite Who, What, Why and When and you will have the perfect points to draft your synopsis. When I was writing Champ and Nessie and Sandy the Cat I spent hours in Barnes and Noble reading the back cover of every single book in my genre. I read 100’s of blog posts, listened to pod casts. Connect with likeminded people on social media. You will be surprised where you find inspiration. I carried a notebook around with me and wrote down cute sayings, made notes about design layouts I liked, even the font and the layout of the text. Get inspired!
The number 1 tip I can give you is to try writing the synopsis before you write your book. This may go against traditional advise, but I find that it is easier to narrow down the specific points and talk about the main character. You can (and should) always go back and tweak it after you have finished writing the book.
Remember, a bad synopsis can sink your book, even if its amazing. Do your research. Read 100’s of book synopsis’s in your genre. You will be able to tell what a good synopsis is vs. a bad one very quickly.
I hope this helps you write an amazing book synopsis!
If you are looking for more tips on Writing a Children’s Book, check this out. Live your dream!
Sometimes all you need is a fresh pair of eyes on your project. I know as an Author, writing is hard, even if you love it. You start a sentence, you stop…you think – is it good enough? You will read the same paragraph 20 times and still don’t know if your getting your point across. You go through waves of emotions, thinking – is my story good enough to publish? The answer is yes! Yes, it is! All you need is a new outlook on your manuscript. Re-focus. A little editing, a revision here and there, and boom! You will be well on your way to Self Publishing your story!
I am offering my services on a FREE Editorial Assessment. That’s right…100 % FREE. All you have to do is email AdventuresofChampandNessie@gmail.com, with the subject of your book and a brief synopsis and I will select 10 people to do a FREE editorial assessment. Don’t send your files until you have received the green light from me. I am a Children’s Book Editor, and Author of the Children’s Book Champ and Nessie. I also have a new Picture Book series coming out this January. My niche is in picture books, storybooks, and middle grade nonfiction. I have been freelance content creating and editing for 10+ years. Even if you need help finalizing your storyboard or just someone to bounce and idea off of, I can help. Follow me on Instagram for updates and Free Giveaways coming up this Holiday Season.
There is nothing I love more than diving into a manuscript and helping to pull out all its potential. I believe in collaboration, but also brutal honesty. Too often as an author it is difficult to see where a story is not being true to itself. That’s where I come in. It’s my job to tease out the scenes that are good and help you to make them great. To find the moments that aren’t quite working and figure out how to turn them into the strongest scenes in the story. Together, we can shape your book into what you always dreamed it would be.
I generally offer two rounds of edits. I consider both to be developmental editing, but I think many other editors may consider my first round to be an editorial assessment, so I’d like to carefully break out for you what is included in each round.
Editorial Assessment—$FREE In the Editorial Assessment round, I will have a read of the book and note any big-picture issues. I will send you a full reader’s report on the manuscript, detailing any areas that are not working and that will need a big revision before I can do a more detailed edit. I will also provide a marked-up manuscript with comments/tracked changes featuring my notes. As part of this, I will of course include suggestions on how to fix any problems that may appear in the manuscript, and am more than happy once you have read the report to go back and forth with you to discuss revisions. The benefit of including this round is that you have addressed any major issues that would require a rewrite before going line by line to look at the words. It can be challenging to do a full line edit on sections of story where a major revision is being suggested.
Below is what normally happens after the “big picture” editorial assessment. If you are interested we can discuss the second round of editing.
Developmental Edit Once you have made the big-picture changes, I will then do my second read on the manuscript. This is the line-editing stage, which means that I will go line by line, paying attention to the specifics and how the words are actually reading. This is where the fine details get fixed. Do the words you’ve chosen seem appropriate? Is your character using vocabulary that is right for the age group? Is what you’re trying to say coming across properly? For this stage, you will get a word document back from me with tracked changes so you can see everything I’ve suggested altering. At the end of the day, this is your book, so my suggestions are simply that. You can take them, or ignore them if you disagree.
Although I recommend doing both rounds of edits, it is up to you whether you would like one or both.
Side note – It is Champ and Nessie’s Two week Book-Aversary! YAY!
We are so grateful for the outpouring of love and support for our story, the last two weeks have been so amazing. I hope you will head over to Amazon and download a copy of Champ and Nessie’s E-Book FREE! If you do, please leave us an honest review on Amazon. Thank you!
I was 5 months into editingChamp and Nessie when I learned that picture books are almost always 32 pages. I never realized that. Rookie move! Our book initially was written as a chapter book, it wasn’t meant to be a picture book, or story book. After some very hard developmental edits, (and a reveal of the most amazing cover design!) we decided to take C&N in a different direction. After seeing C&N in full color, we knew it had to be a story book! As a result, I ended up learning a lot of things the hard way. But with that being said, we couldn’t be happier with the finished product!
IN LIFE, YOU ALWAYS HAVE OPTIONS…
The reason most picture books are always 32 pages is physical: when you fold paper, eight pages folds smoothly into what’s called a signature, while any more results in a group of pages too thick to bind nicely. In addition, the 32 pages can all be printed on a single sheet of paper, making it cost-effective. In rare cases, picture books may be 16, 24, 40 or 48 pages, all multiples of eight (a signature). You may see board books at 16 or 24 pages, and picture books at 32, 40 or 48 pages. But the standard for picture books is 32 pages.
When thinking about the page layout for a picture book story, there are two options. You can look at each page separately, or you can talk about double-page spreads; when a picture book is opened flat, the two facing pages are often illustrated as one. Therefore, in a 32 page book, you would have a single page (the right hand side of the book), fifteen double-page spreads, and a single page (the left hand side of the book). It can be very confusing if you are new to the picture book author scene, so I created a fun and colorful 32 page picture book layout using Canva. This helped me so much. I formatted C&N using Pages and Adobe Pro, it was so easy having the layout printed and hanging right in front of me to reference.
Within the 32 pages, the first pages contain front matter of the book, consisting of a title page, a copyright page and dedication. Depending on the length of your story, you can combine the copyright and dedication on one page. I have even seen books combine the biography, copyright and dedication together if they need more room for the story and illustration. The end pages of the book will be for your biography, or for example, if your story has a map or you want to have information about your website or promote other books you have published. In single pages, this may take 4-5 pages. (C&N is a single page layout). In double-page spreads, it’s the first single page and one or two spreads. The text, then has 27-28 pages or 14 spreads, plus a last single page. Do what is best for your story, there is no right or wrong way.
The first time I ever read Champ and Nessie was on 6/19/2014. (Wow!) The first draft of Champ and Nessie was 24 pages of unformatted text, 5486 words. Check out my post on The Journey Begins, for the backstory on what took me so long. My first for real editorial read was 4/11/2019. On that day, I cut 10 pages of redundant text and over used adverbs and transformed C&N to a 14 page manuscript. How, you ask? I omitted every single adverb, and most of the imagery that Author Zebulan Frayne had used.
Adverbs will KILL your story, get rid of them. This is a famous tip backed by Mark Twain and Ernest Hemmingway, so its safe to say, this is a no brainer when it comes to editing your book. One of the things that will make any writer stand out as an amature is too many adverbs. As a writer the last thing we want to do is appear amateurish. Especially, if you are a independent writer, the pressure is worse than ever.
With a background in editing, it comes natural for me to spot a “filler word”. But in case you don’t know exactly what to look for, check out our Writing Resource, Filler Words reference sheet to help you omit some of those unnecessary adverbs.
Print out your manuscript, or storyboard and go grab a red pen. Red line all the adverbs and re-read your story, see what makes sense to edit and what you need to keep. In the end, I bet you have a more concise text that is tightend up and clean.
To get an idea of how your manuscript is coming along, click on our Children’s Book Length Guideline and make sure your word count is on track for your age group and category.
If you fail to plan, plan to fail. One of the most sound pieces of advise I can give you is to plan, plan and plan some more. In the beginning, I failed to do this. Honestly, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. About 6 months before Champ and Nessie was published, I decided to watch a few Author Tube videos on Self Publishing and I had quite the 5 subject notebook filled with notes and “to-do’s” after that. I realized pretty fast that I was going to be a 1 woman show after that. Publishing, marketing, tax paperwork, ISBN’s, obtaining my trademark and copyright, hiring my beta and ARC team, writing my story, editing my story – again and again, formatting my manuscript and illustrations, setting up my social media outlets, creating content, setting up my website and blog, setting up and maintaining my Author Platform…and the list goes on! Spoiler – it can be done!
Some people like storyboarding, some don’t. Some people will rework a draft 10 times, others can knock out a good story in one sitting. Let your writing success be your only option. Don’t worry about making a fool of yourself, just get yourself out there! Ask 1000 questions until you figure it out. The writing community is absolutely amazing, if you can connect with other authors in your niche, you will have the best support team.
Any successful writer will tell you that they did not wake up one morning and decided “Today I will be a writer”, they simply are one. If you want to write, just do it! Write from your heart, because what you write becomes who you are.
The fear of the unknown can make any aspiring author run for the hills. I know this to be a fact, as I ran several times, as far away as I could away from Champ and Nessie’s unfinished manuscript. The question that hung over me day after day was, “What do I with this this story now that it is actually starting to feel like a real book?” There are many things I wish I knew at the beginning of this journey, hence my desire share my new found knowledge with the world!
One of the first, and most important things is figuring out what age range you are writing for, and then write within that word count.
Most writers think they are writing picture books for age 3-7, that is the most common category. If that’s you, then shoot for 750 words, that is the sweet spot. If you write a picture book more than 1000 words, you’re sunk. So don’t be afraid to take out that red pen and slash and dash until your word count is way down!
Another super important tip, is to make sure you start off your story quickly! Many books fail because they lose the attention of the child or parent in the first page. (Sad, but true.) In Champ and Nessie, I had written a long winded, beautiful story setting “deep in the heart of Pangea…” And after I realized my manuscript was 20 pages too long, my first 4 pages of text, turned into 1 paragraph.
In Champ and Nessie on first page, you are immediately introduced to the story setting, the main characters, and then right into a dramatic scene. So try and minimize the backstory as much as possible, don’t set the scene, just tell us what is happening.
You have such a short space to tell your story that you can’t waste any time. The pacing of children’s stories generally move very quickly. Launch your story on the first page, then introduce us to the main problem or “key” point of your story as soon as possible.