Welcome to the Writing Process: An Author/Illustrator Blog Tour

Fellow Scattered Author (and illustrator), Teresa Flavin, invited me to share a bit about my writing and illustrating process as part of the ‘Welcome to the Writing Process: An Author/Illustrator Blog Tour’. Check out Teresa’s blog here!

What am I currently working on?

I am finishing the final edits on my next picture book, PIRATES DON’T DRIVE DIGGERS. It’s a rhyming picture book, so it’s taken a lot of work to get it shipshape. I have had to rewrite my paper at least a dozen times.

I’m also working on a novel for 9-12s involving talking cats, pizzas and water witches.

Finally, I’m getting ready for the release of my first picture book, YUCK SAID THE YAK, in September.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

A tricky question! My picture books tend to be wacky and funny (I hope!). I like to write about unusual characters, so you are much more likely to find a yak or a porcupine in my books than a bunny or a bear.

Why do I write what I write?

I love children’s books and always have, but I only started writing picture books after learning about them on a writing for children class at City Lit (before that I’d always thought you needed to be able to illustrate as well as write). I have two young sons and I love reading with them and seeing them enjoy stories.

How does my writing and illustrating process work?

It often starts with an idea or a title just popping into my head. I love wordplay and rhymes. I also like to think about the sorts of things that pre-school children can identify with, so I often get ideas from my own children or others when I take my sons to toddler group. I keep a notebook just for picture book ideas and make sure I write EVERYTHING down so I don’t forget anything. Once I’ve decided which idea I’m going to work on, I do a big brainstorm before planning out a dummy of my story. When I’ve finished the first draft, I usually run it past my critique group and rework it a couple of times before it goes out to my editor.

Once the text is all finished, my lovely publisher Maverick and I decide on an illustrator. For YUCK SAID THE YAK, I teamed up with the fantastically talented Emma Levey, who somehow managed to illustrate my yak exactly as I had imagined him.

10 Top Tips for Picture Book Submissions

My lovely editor at Maverick Arts Publishing, Kimara Nye, has produced a video of her top ten picture book submission tips.

Children’s publishing is extremely competitive and Maverick receive thousands of picture book submissions every year. There’s always a bit of luck involved, but there are also lots of ways to make your manuscript stand out from the murky depths of the slush pile.

My biggest tip is to join SCBWI. The events are brilliant, and the camaraderie keeps you going!

To find out more about submitting to Maverick please go to…  www.maverickbooks.co.uk/submissions

How to design your picture book layout

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about writing picture books, it’s that a writer must think visually. Well, duh! They’re picture books right?

It seems so obvious, but as a writer who doesn’t illustrate, it’s easy to get carried away with words and forget how things will look on the page. That’s where picture book layout plans come in. They’re vital for getting your story arc down on paper, checking for balance and thinking about how the final product will look on the page.

Not only that, but picture books come in standard formats. Sending a non-standard length manuscript to an editor or agent will mark you out as an amateur. Typically, picture books for younger children come in a 24-page format and those for 3-5s in a 32-page format.

But not all those pages are usable – there’s the cover, the title pages, the end papers. The end result is, you’re left with a mere 9 spreads to play with for a 24-page book.

For a 32-page book you get just 13 spreads. You may get away with writing into the end papers, but if you’re a newbie it’s good to go with the standard layout.

I find sketching out my story on a layout plan helps me think visually.

Is the story dynamic enough?

Does it move around and have scope for interesting illustrations?

Are there cliffhangers?

Where do the page breaks come in?  Am I making best use of the right hand pages and creating suspense before turning the page?

Is it balanced?

Is there enough happening on each spread? Too much? Is there clear action that can be illustrated?

Do you use layout templates to plan your picture books?

Download my templates here:

24 page picture book layout template

32 page picture book layout template