Friday, May 27, 2011

Picture Book word counts in Current Children's Book Market

It was June 2010 when I finally had an idea for a picture book and I had to get it down on paper. Before that time I stared at my computer screen for years trying to come up with stories and characters that just didn't work. I was so eager to get my idea in story form that I "winged it". I figured hey, I had taken a course in Writing Books for children and I tell stories to kids all the time. I can do this. No problem.

Well guess what? My story had promising structure but the word count was way off.  In the current picture book marker most publishers are looking for pictures books with word counts of 1000 words or less. Many of those prefer them even shorter with a target range of 500 words or less.

The first draft of my picture book was 1275 words!! I was in trouble.

Now that I have fully immeresed myself in the world of children's writing I can look back and realize a little more prep work would have been helpful. Studying 2011 Children's Writer's And Illustrator's Market helped me to get a better idea of what publishers wanted as far as word counts for picture books. Networking with other writers and attending writing classes and workshops also helped me to focus.

My initial first picture book draft is now in it's 6th revision. The word count is still high at 917 words, but is under 1000 words now. The story remained intact and it's actually a better read. Now when I write I consciously try to keep the writing tight in all my picture books. My two latest stories are 650 words and 472 words respectively. It is definitely something you have to "write, write, and write more" in order to get better at.

What are your experiences in writing children's picture books? What are their word counts?

Update 6/30: The above mentioned picture book is on it's 7th revision now and is approx. 800 words. While it upset me to cut it (oh no! That part is vital!) the story is actually a much tighter, better read now. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Sunflower Scribe

I hope everyone is having a bright, sunshiney week! I have been trying to think of the perfect blog title for my children's writing blog for quite some time now. So far nothing had stuck. It's like having a nickname. I couldn't just use any old name -- it had to stick. And more importantly, I had to like it. Unlike a nickname, I actually got to choose this name.

I have finally decided upon, "The Sunflower Scribe." I have always loved sunflowers and they hold a special significance for me and my family. My grandmother-in-law loved them and they always seem to be around on special family occasions. For instance, at a family party in 2008 my husband surprised me and proposed that day! I had made sunflower cupcakes to celebrate and placed a sunflower centerpiece on the table. I had no idea I would be getting engaged that day!! But it seems my grandmother-in-law was smiling at us from heaven that day! My mom and sisters happy-go-lucky english bull terriers have even been photographed with sunflowers.  Whenever I look at a sunflower I feel warm, happy, loved, and encouraged. All things that have helped shape me into the writer I am today. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Book Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger GamesI have recently finished The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I've seen these books on bestseller lists for quite some time, but whenever I read the synopsis for the first book I couldn't envision myself getting into it. In my younger days I loved horror and had no problem with watching or reading about gory situations or war. But I  have to confess -- I've grown to be a bit squeamish. One particular quote from School Library Journal made me hesitatant to read it:

"Part entertainment, part brutal intimidation of the subjugated districts, the televised games are broadcasted throughout Panem as the 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors, literally, with all citizens required to watch."

I finally had a change of heart at Writer's Day in L.A. Several of the speakers spoke very highly of the book. Rachel Cohn, in fact read a passage from the first few pages of The Hunger Games, during the conference. I was intrigued! So I finally decided to sample it on my kindle -- what could it hurt?

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Last week I got the chance to visit a Scholatic Book Sale Event. All the books for sale were 50% off their cover price!

You know that feeling you get when kids are playing with a toy? Maybe with a barbie doll for example -- my personal favorite? Sometimes they ask you, "will you play with me?" Secretly on the inside you're ecstatic, even if all you out say out loud is, "sure." It's fun to get the opportunity to let loose and be a kid again. That's how I felt at the book sale. I enjoyed picking my books out lovingly. I will also be able to use them as "research" for my writing. I am looking forward to sitting and enjoying them from the comfort of my own home.

One of my purchases was Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann, which is actually referenced in Eve Bine Stock's How to Write a Children's Picture Book: Learning from The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Corduroy, Where the Wild Things Are, The Carrot Seed, Good Night, Gorilla, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, and Other Favorite Stories. Stock's book is the first in a series of three that teaches aspiring picture book writers how to structure their books.  I am delighted to have a copy of Goodnight, Gorilla that I can go back to again and again.

Another of my finds was the The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. This is a story that I always hear children talking about, mainly boys but some girls as well. At the end of the book you can find instructions on how to make your own origami yoda. I was definitely intrigued and am curious to read this story.

I also found a picture book that had two stories in one ~ What Sisters Do Best/What Brothers Do Best.

One of the golden rules for any writer is to "read, read, read" in your genre, which I highly agree with. I now have several new books to study, analyze, and enjoy!

I love this kind of research! Don't you?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Linky Love

Hello everyone!
Get ready for some Writers linky love. I have added a new page to my blog called Links for Writers. It is a list full of links I have found useful as a writer. From conferences and classes to submission guidelines and guides to literary agents.  It's a small list so far but I plan to keep on building it up and adding more information as I grow as a writer. If you have any links you think I should add please feel free to contact me. Please enjoy!