What I learned writing children's picture books
Recently, I critiqued a writer’s first draft of a children’s book. HIs use of long narrative with little dialog reminded me of my first draft for Calvin Splinter. Back then, 11 years ago, I wrote pages and pages in long hand. The story read more like a novella than a children’s book.
Eventually, I realized—after testing and re-testing the storyline on my grandsons who were little boys then—I needed to drastically condense the book. My daughter coached me more than once. “Mom, you’re using too many words.”
Okay, okay, I thought. I’ll cut. It killed me to edit my story but I did it. Then, I tested the shorter version(s) on the boys again. Frankly, they were more interested in coloring the illustrations which were, at the time, line drawings. But I marched on and finally arrived at a final word count of less than 1,000 words.
Truth be told, I was cutting text right up until the book went to press.
The big thing to remember when writing for children is keep your story real, simple and clear. Kids are smart. They know a good story when they hear it.