Studying Picture Books

I haven’t submitted any fiction picture books in a couple of months, which is unusual for me. I’ve posted here about some of my revision thoughts and efforts, and I also wanted to share a resource and an idea.

The resource is Linda Ashman’s book The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books. Linda is a wonderful picture book writer whose work I admire. Twice I’ve been told by editors my work reminded them too much of a certain other author whom they already published. Once it was Douglas Florian, and the other time it was Linda Ashman. I was flattered both times. Anyway, you might know that Lisa Bullard and I have a book called Picture Books the Write Way, which addresses 10 of the most common problems picture book writers have. I love that book and am proud of it! BUT if you’re wondering about picture books and how to get started writing one, Linda’s book is the one you want. It takes you through all the basics, as promised, in a friendly, unintimidating but informative way, using plenty of examples to demonstrate various qualities or aspects of picture books.

In fact, even if you are already writing picture books regularly, I recommend Linda’s book. It’s funny, because I did not learn any brand new information in the book, but Linda’s way of organizing her info and thinking about different aspects of picture books helped me see some of my own manuscripts in a new light. The Building a Story chapter was the one that I personally got the most out of. That’s always the way with good books or presentations. It might not be something new. But it helps you see something in a new WAY.

Combining this book with a spreadsheet analysis of plot structures of some of my favorite picture books helped me come to a better understanding of where my own manuscripts were falling short and, more importantly, how to fix it.

I’m excited to say I wrote a brand new picture book manuscript early this week and took it to my crit group on Tuesday. And they did not criticize the structure! The plot itself worked (though of course there’s plenty of work yet to do on characterization, word choice, etc. But the structure of the book is sound. I feel like this is a milestone in my journey to selling a fiction picture book. Thank you, Linda, and thank you to the authors whose picture books I’ve been analyzing!

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About Laura Purdie Salas

children's writer, poet, reader, visiting author, speaker/teacher, mentor, copyeditor, freelance writer
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2 Responses to Studying Picture Books

  1. Laura, that’s so awesome of you to plug another writer like this, that you don’t act all high and mighty and say you’re the only one who knows how to teach picture book writing.

  2. ldk says:

    Thanks for the resource, Laura. I looked on Amazon, and I guess it is only available through Kindle. I usually like a print copy I can write notes in, but Linda Ashman is amazing, so I know it will be worth it!

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