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Friday, October 19, 2012

Bang for your Book

Mem Fox.
This is a woman who knows her stuff.  She needs no introduction.  I recently read her
site almost from cover to cover.  Here are her "DOs" for writing picture books.
(My favorite is Where is the Green Sheep?)
Next month, I will feature her DON'Ts.
Thanks for all this good info Mem, and thanks for allowing me to share it
with others.

  • DO read recent picture books over and over again.
  • DO make friends with a bookseller or librarian or stoyteller: their advice and guidance can be enormously helpful.
  • DO be original: try not to copy the ideas or structures of recent well-known books.
  • DO become familiar with the nature of rhythm in exquisite prose or poetry by reading it aloud: learn speech from Shakespeare, or several verses from the King James version of the Bible, or a long peom fpr children. Understanding brevity, rhythm, and cadence in prose will keep rejections at bay.
  • DO ensure your story makes an emotional impact: the reader should be changed by the reading.
  • DO ensure that the content of the story will interest both children and adults, not just adults—a common fault which might well lead to publication but will never lead to best-selling status.
  • DO write with narrative tension ie. solve a problem.
  • DO ’show’ and do not ‘tell’: try to reveal action and character through what the characters say and do.
  • DO keep the text under 500 words if possible. Minimise description. The fewer words the better, since the pictures will provide many of the visual details in the story. A picture book is always thirty-two pages.
  • DO remember that the secret of good writing is re-writing.
  • DO constantly re-read drafts aloud during the drafting process: hearing is one way of perceiving what’s wrong in the text, especially in regard to rhythm.
  • DO send the text to publishers without any accompanying artwork unless you are both the author and the illustrator.
  • DO ensure the text is written grammatically, and the spelling and punctuation are correct.
  • DO type the manuscript on one side of the paper, with decent margins, double-spaced. It is acceptable to write the story in blocks of print, which suggest appropriate page-breaks, or simply as a straight telling from start to finish.
  • DO remain confident and up-beat after rejections. Re-write, re-think and send the story off to another publisher.
  • DO stay out of the illustrator’s way. Interference by an overbearing author is rarely appreciated.
  • DO retain humility, even after a best-seller. Success may not last and you may need the comfort of friends. Those who boast have no friends.

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