Tips for writing picture books part 2

Valentine background with children read a book under tree. Vecto

Last week, I posted some general tips for writing picture books. Today’s post focuses on specific writing tips.

  • What does your character want? How does he or she get it? Maybe they don’t get what they want? How do they deal with it?
  • Think of the story arc. It should slowly rise up to meet the climax, then drop down gently for the resolution. Often the protagonist in a picture book tries to solve the problem unsuccessfully twice, before solving the problem at the third attempt.
  • What is the problem IN your story? What is your character going to do to solve that problem? How many attempts will they make?
  • What is the problem WITH your story? Why doesn’t it sing? Is it the pacing? Is there too much in there? Is it too prosaic and bland? Does the language have rhythm? Does every word count and contribute to the story? Remember, you only have 500 words!
  • Put it aside. Leave it and write something else. Then look at it with fresh eyes a week later, a month later or even a year later.



Writing picture books
Ann Whitford Paul
Writer’s Digest Books

I love this book because it is so practical and full of wisdom. Ann Whitford Paul writes as if she is sitting next to you with a cup of tea, cheering you on but also ensuring that you rise to her expectations. She writes about creating characters, understanding your reader’s needs, ensuring characters solve their own problems, strong openings, plot structure, rhythm.

‘We are the first step up the ladder to create lifetime readers.

Without a thoughtful, educated and well-read population, how can we solve the many problems – environment, health care, schools, wars – facing us? We picture book writers hold something important in our hands. We hold the world’s future.’


The Australian Writers Centre runs online and in-person courses for writing picture books. Find them here.



Her sheer audacity


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