Today I'm posting a “BlogCross Post” by the lovely PB writer Nancy Kelly Allen. Please enjoy “The Art of Thinking Visually”
written by Nancy Kelly Allen, illustrated by
At first glance, writing a picture book seems easy. Even after a second or third glance, a picture book seems so simplistic that the text could be scripted in a matter of minutes. But glances can be deceiving. As a writer of 30+ picture books, I’ve learned that there are no rigid rules for writing these books. Every rule can be, and has been, broken. But there are guidelines for structure that benefit any writer.
The hardest part of writing picture books for most writers, especially me, is the art of thinking visually. Writers are usually not geared to think in pictures; instead, we paint pictures with words. Writing picture books is a totally different set of guidelines. As writers, we have to “tell” enough of the story to get the point across, but leave out enough of the story so the illustrator can “show” the remainder. If that’s not complicated enough, the writer and illustrator usually don’t communicate until AFTER the book is published.
Picture book text needs action, enough for 14-16 scenes. In “telling” these scenes, I use lyrical language and wordplay in tight writing. For me, tight writing means no excess of words. Picture books have concise text and every word must push the plot/story forward. In my book, BARRELING OVER NIAGARA FALLS, I used this wordplay: When the sizzle fizzled out of teaching music, and the fizzle sizzled out of teaching dance, sixty-two-year-old Annie had no job and little money. “Sizzle” was used first as a noun; then as a verb while “fizzle” was used as a verb and later as a noun. This wordplay has a rhythmic sound when read aloud and all picture book manuscripts should be read aloud just to determine how they will sound as books. After all, picture books are meant to be read aloud.
My goal in writing is to entertain and inspire the reader, but most of all I want to tell a story that children want to hear again and again with illustrations that they can look at over and over and find something new they had not noticed earlier. Text and illustrations work together in this “marriage” called a picture book.
I’m so happy to be a guest author on Alison’s blog. Thanks for the invite.
You can find out more about Nancy at:
Writing Workshop blog:
BARRELING OVER NIAGARA FALLS recent listing on Smart Books for Smart Kids, Best Picture books list
Thanks SO much, Nancy, for playing BlogCross Post with me!