Just Write!

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Your First Draft

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

For more writing inspiration click here.

Copyright

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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:

  1. the © symbol, or the word “Copyright” or abbreviation “Copr.”
  2. the year of first publication of the work; and
  3. an identification of the owner of the copyright—by name, abbreviation, or some other way that it’s generally known.

Together, it should look like this: Copyright © YEAR, Author Name

Because the © symbol isn’t available on typewriters or most common computer terminals, the copyright symbol is often approximated with the characters (c). Unfortunately, this form of notice may not stand up in court. There are several places online you can download a template. Or you can copy and paste this symbol, as the quickest way: ©.

What Else You’ll Find on the Copyright Page

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:

  1. Reservation of rights, where you outline what rights you reserve and which you allow.
  2. Publisher’s editorial address. Larger publishers will likely include…Ordering information, Trademark notices, Catalog and Publication Data.
  3. 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.
  4. 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).
  5. Lastly, some publishers use the copyright page to credit the contributors to the book including designers, production managers, proofreaders, indexers, and editors. I personally dedicate an entire page for my “Dedication’s and Credits”. Click here to download a copy of my 32 PAGE PICTURE BOOK TEMPLATE.

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.

Nowadays, anyone can write a book and easily self-publish it. Not everyone aspires to be a Best Selling Author, but if you want your book to be a success, there are a few steps you need to follow in order to present the most professional book possible to your readers! Check out my resource library for more Self-Publishing Help and FREE Templates.

Anatomy of a Children’s Book Synopsis

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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!

Improving Choppy Sentences

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Although short sentences can pack a powerful punch in your writing, too many in a row become distracting to the reader. Choppy sentences may make your ideas seem disconnected, and your writing seem unsophisticated. If you find that you have a lot of short, choppy sentences in your writing, read on for a few suggestions to improve them.

When you have too many sentences in a row that begin with a simple subject, or repeat the same subjects in the beginning of a sentence, for example, She is, She was, She can…etc. Think about you how can rework that sentence. You can combine multiple sentences with a well placed comma to create one long sentence. Think about how you can show logical connections between your ideas by using words that show cause and effect. Look for words that show contrast, like such as, and then, just then…etc. Try and join your sentences by using phrases beginning with if, when, after, as, etc. You can manipulate the sentence and move phrases around to find the best way to convey your ideas to the reader.

Try and string together your minor details, you don’t need a new sentence for each piece of information. Think about how you can start your sentences in different ways. Think back to grade school, try a prepositional phrase or a dependent clause! Sometimes, you have to get back to basics.

When writing, it’s important to remember that variety is one of the keys to keeping your reader’s attention. Make sure you have a mix of long and short sentences, so you don’t end up with lots of choppy sentences that could distract your reader.

Happy Writing!

P.S. CLICK HERE For more Writing Help, and FREE Children’s Book Writing Templates

Anatomy of a 32 Page Picture Book

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I was 5 months into editing Champ 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.

Check out my Writing Help page for more Children’s Book Writing inspiration!

Day 5…Irritating

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“It was irritating to read all those adverbs.”

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.

Write Your Story…

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Even if you don’t aspire to be a best selling author, there is no reason why you shouldn’t have your story published.

Have you ever wondered how to write a children’s book, and if you have what it takes to create one? Maybe you have an incredible idea that you can’t stop thinking about. Or maybe you want to put to paper your little one’s favorite bedtime story–the one you made up while snuggling together. Whatever the reason, now is the time to check this dream off your bucket list.

Writing and publishing your own children’s book is no longer difficult to do, nor is it financially unattainable. You could actually have your book printed for FREE, yes, free…ZERO money. (but spoiler, this will mean A LOT of work for you.) You could end up spending half a fortune just figuring out how to go about all the steps involved. My hope is, if you found your way here, you can learn from my mistakes and it will save you lots of headaches.

If your ultimate goal is to get published the traditional way, presenting a well-performing, professional book and an established author platform, will ultimately increase your chances of landing a publisher! Truth be told, this was my initial plan, but now that I know how easy it can be, I would not be scared to self publish all my upcoming projects!

There are several steps to set publishing, and many things to consider when you are first getting started. Just remember, children value creativity and individuality. There is no one way to draw. No one way to paint. No one way to write. It’s about being uniquely you, lending your unique voice to your unique story. I hope you are inspired to write your own children’s book!

Storyboard Layout

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In chaos, there is calculation.

anonymous

A story in your head may seem clear, but you will soon discover that the idea you have, is not ready for its picture book debut. There are some basic rules you can follow to help you put out a professional book and creating a storyboard will help you visualize your entire manuscript all at once.

A storyboard is a visual narrative layout spanning all 32 pages of a picture book. Creating one will allow you to keep track of your story, and make sure your word and illustration placement is perfect. It can help you think of where to pause with words and let the pictures do their magic. Many writers consider storyboarding an essential tool in the beginning drafts of a manuscript. A storyboard gives you as the author a map of the story from beginning to end. The layout verifies that text, story flow and plot work within the picture book format are consistent. You do not have to be an illustrator to construct and utilize a storyboard. Storyboarding helps you, the author, adjust basic ideas and scenes. Ideally, components of the storyboard move to give the writer control of the story structure. Everyone has there own process, but being able to clearly layout your story will help you in the long run.

When using a storyboard, write the narrative of the picture book in the numbered blocks. Four pages are usually allocated for the title, dedication and biography pages. A single block is a one-page spread, and a double block is a two-page spread. For example, I used a single block for Champ and Nessie, meaning my illustrations were not spread over 2 pages. I also chose to have my author biography at the end of the book, and the copyright and dedication pages are not combined. There are no hard rules here, just do what works best for the layout of your story.

Sketch the characters/scenes in the corresponding block. Know that this is for, you can draw a stick figure if it will help you visualize the story. I used descriptive words. For example, when our main character is confronted with a great white shark, on the corresponding block to the narrative, I wrote “Champ encounters shark, scary, big teeth, friends gathered around trembling.” Once the storyboard was complete, I sent it off to my illustrator and he created the scene. Ask yourself this, “What is the overall message of the storyboard.” Are you on a journey, learning something, helping someone? Is each spread moving your story forward? Once you have your first draft outlined, you can use post it notes to make any changes or adjustments to the spreads. Refer to the working storyboard layout draft when necessary. Plan each scene and put them together in a logical sequence. Plan transition from scene to scene. It will become apparent if you have too much content or too little. You will also be able to control where your text will end on each page. You can manipulate the story to create a dramatic page turn!

Some writers like to prepare a cork board and push pins to assemble the storyboard. Others use a poster board and post it notes. Position the board wherever gives you the best visual perspective. Write out your story board layout on the cards or notes, then you can assemble your storyboard by putting up one card at a time to create a spread. Move the cards around to experiment with the story’s sequence, pacing and plot. Brainstorm with your illustrator and get their ideas. After our first few drafts on post it notes, my husband and I used Adobe Acrobat to assemble our storyboard, it was easier for us to send our notes and ideas back and forth to our illustrator.

Although a storyboard typically has a single-page spread, 15 two-page spreads and the final one-page spread. Not all picture books are created equal. Most picture books are between 24-32 pages. The printing process requires that the number of pages be multiples of 8. Common sizes are 24, 32, or 40 pages. By far 32 pages is the most common and is where you should begin. Once your storyboard is perfect and ready to transform into your manuscript, keep in mind that your trim size, margins, and line spacing all will play a roll in your final product. Whatever platform you choose to self publish, make sure you do your research and set up your template before you begin to type it out. Or you can download one online. I will link a few below.

I created a 32 page template to help you visualize the interior structure of a standard 32 page picture book (Anatomy of a 32 page Picture Book Blog post coming next week!) and a storyboard layout template to help you with your storyboard draft. I hope you find it helpful!

Click on the links below to download.

32 Page Picture Book Layout

Storyboard Layout

Ask yourself these questions once you’ve drafted your storyboard:

  1. Is there enough action and visual interest happening in the story?
  2. Is there a change of a scenery, or does everything happen in one location?
  3. Is each part of the storyboard moving the story forward?
  4. Are there dramatic page turns?

Book Formatting Templates

https://www.canva.com

https://www.bookbaby.com/templates

https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G201834230

Writing a Children’s Book

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How many times have you been sitting at dinner, or in a café chatting with friends and someone says, “I have this great idea for a story!” I can tell you this has happened to me personally so many times. It comes with the territory of being a writer, or a creative thinker. We live in a world that constantly inspires us. What I have learned throughout this Self- Publishing process is that an idea is worthless unless you do something with it. An idea is not enough on its own, you have to run with it, to make it worthwhile. Even if you don’t aspire to be a bestselling author, there is no reason why you shouldn’t have your story published and hold a copy of your idea, your story, in your hand. It is a really great feeling. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a commercial success. Even if your intentions aren’t to be in every bookstore around the globe (hey, you never know!) your personal success, and sense of accomplishment is what is most important.

If you want to be a professional, you have to be professional about it. You have to think on a much wider scale. Ask yourself this, “What is my niche’?” Is your story aimed for a particular age group, or for children who are learning to tie their shoelaces, or becoming potty trained? Are you trying to inspire or encourage? Is your story about the scary monster under the bed? Do you want to take your readers on an adventure? You will need to narrow it down and really decide what you goal is. And remember, wherever you are taking your readers, always make your story ends Happily Ever After.

Story development. You want a broad, international appeal if you want your story to be a success. If your idea is based on a bedtime story you made up for your own child, think bigger. Not that its necessarily a bad idea, but there are 100’s of books just like that already published. You want your book to stand out, be set apart from all the others. If you are publishing your own book, than this is fine, but if you are thinking, “Oh I would really like to have my books in shops!” Then you really have to start putting yourself into a different frame of mind.

Setting a budget. Ask yourself this, “How big of a project do I want this to be?” Does your story need illustrations? Do you want to hire someone to create your cover art? Should you hire an editor? Do you need someone to help format your book? Technically, you don’t have to spend any money on your book. But if you want to put out a quality book, and I know you do, then you should take setting a budget into consideration.

Editing and revisions. The story that you have might be really good. The chances of you writing the perfect manuscript right off are rather slim. You will need to edit and rewrite again and again (and again and again…) to develop your story. Don’t hold onto your favorite phrases or tiny ideas you have in your story. If you have a beautifully written line, or a scene that after editing doesn’t work in your storyline anymore, get rid of it! You will spend more time and energy trying to make it work. Let it go. There is a formula and flow for picture books. A lyrical, rhythmic flow. If you are trying to make it rhyme, and it wont – don’t force it. Just tell the story. A picture book does not have to be a rhyme. Make sure words that rhyme mean something.

Illustration and Cover Design. For obvious reasons, pictures are really important. Make sure your illustrator is a picture book illustrator who understands that. Don’t cram your story with description, let the illustrator help set the scene. Think of your story as a script for your illustrator. They will read it and have idea’s to help enhance your writing. Think about hiring a cover designer.

Networking and Social Media. If you really want to be a children’s books author it will help you exponentially if you have the support and help from other authors. They will help inspire and encourage you. They are a great resource for all the things you don’t know.

Self Publishing. There are so many different platforms that you can use today to self publish your story. We used Amazon, Kindle Direct Publishing. But there are several very reputable sites, do some research and use what works best for your project. Sometimes a story just comes into your head. Don’t worry about how long it takes you to cross the finish line. It can be a daunting process, and it really isn’t easy. You will need to dedicate some time and learn the different software’s for layouts. If you don’t have any experience in the printing and design world, there will definitely be a learning curve. But don’t be discouraged. You can learn. Uploading your final perfect manuscript will be a great reward. Know you will make mistakes along the way.

Outsourcing help. Think about what you can and cannot do. I knew I wanted to be in the drivers seat for the interior book design, but even as a seasoned editor I knew I wanted another set of eyes proofreading my story. I also wanted an unbiased opinion on my writing. Someone to constructively criticize my work, and help me turn my story into the manuscript I wanted it to be. Of course my mom is going to think my story is amazing, she’s my mom! (She has to say that.) There are many sites you can refer to to help you hire a freelancer. I used UpWork.com. There are over 50 categories you can refer to for writing. I was able post my job and search for freelancers who I thought would be a good fit for my project and invite them to bid on my posting. I hired an amazing editor. It was money well spent!

To recap: Set a timeline and figure out your budget. Write your story, edit the story, really develop the story. If you need to, hire an illustrator. Edit your story again with the illustrations, then edit it some more. (You will do this a lot!) Hire an editor if you decide to and send to them for review. Make sure your format and layout is correct for the platform you are publishing your book on. Order a proof for review. Let other people read it and tell you what they think. Send ARC copies, get feedback from your target audience. And remember that even the most experienced self publisher has to go through all these steps.

The next step – Marketing your book! This is a whole other world. Some people can just sell things. For others this will take time. I will have another post dedicated specifically to marketing your book!

It takes an inordinate amount of luck to have a best seller. But even if you want to have a few copies of your book for your family and friends, which is great, hopefully these tips may help you.

And lastly , get your mind on your next book! The most successful authors never stop writing.

Stay inspired friends!