Saturday, August 1, 2015

Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann: Seven Simple Fixes for the Picturebook Text

The room is packed tighter than even a polyamorous sardine would be comfortable with, but for good reason! We are soooooooooo lucky to have both Eric Rohmann and Candace Fleming here! They are sharing seven simple fixes for the picture book text, here are a few:
1. With picture books you are limited to 32 pages, so get to the problem of your story as soon as you can. You can have a few pages of set up, but if your story doesn't start by page 10, you're in trouble.
As an example, go read Clever Jack, there are a few pages of set up, but the problem is introduce by fourth spread.

Whereas in Oh No! the problem is introduced on page 1.

Read your story draft and mark out page by page, which text goes on what page to help remind you of the structure of your story as you write. (Candace reminds: when you send your manuscript to the editor, don't paginate, send a clean, unpaginated version for submission)

2. Something that helps Eric and Candace in their writing of picture books is they think in terms of small scenes, not just sentences per page. Each scene should move your story forward, not just words and sentences. Eric and Candace recommend looking at your manuscript and marking off the scenes, where the beginning and end of them are. Then count them—if you only have 4 scenes and they are very similar in length, rethink your pacing.

Clever Jack has about 9 scenes, Oh No! has about 12.

Finally, take a look at the first and last words of your scene, they should be really good and interesting words.

3. Eric does an exercise on his manuscripts, he takes out all the adjective and adverbs. Candace says then ask yourself, which ones do I miss? Because some do improve the language and rhythm of the book, but for many, you'll find those words will be taken care of by the illustrations.

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