Top Tips on Writing a Great Picture Book

Are you wondering how to write a picture book? If the answer is yes, then you are here at the right place.

The thing is that picture books are not as easy to write as one might think. Your task as a picture book author is not just to entertain the children but also to entertain the readers.

As we all know – most picture books are read aloud to children by someone else, such as a parent, a babysitter, or a teacher.

Here are some tips that will help you write a great picture book.

Tell vs. Show – The Struggle

While creating and writing your picture book’s story, there are a few things that you should always have to help the readers feel fulfilled. The underlying struggle is that you will have to capture not only the characters but also the conflict, the setting, and the objective with very few words.

Nonetheless, the great part about having a picture to go along with the story is that some of these aspects can be illustrated in the picture and hence don’t need to be said. For instance, the setting of the story is something that we can often infer from the picture – depending on the picture book.

But – no matter what, make sure to hire a children’s book editor so that you don’t make any beginner mistakes – especially if this is your first picture book. Also, make sure that your beginning is precise.

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As you set the scene and introduce the characters along with the conflict, you might want to keep in mind that you can do this by showing and not telling. This takes a lot of the pressure off your writing.

As a newbie picture book author, there is a great chance that you might struggle with figuring out what it is you need to tell and what it is you need to show. You might want to draw out your story. Yes, you read this right.

While sketching out your story, you get a better picture of what can be shown through the illustrations. Subsequently, you can take those parts out of the words or written content of the picture book. This way, you can ensure that the words don’t become redundant to the illustrations and that the words are stronger and more concise.

Build Tension in the Story

So, you will want to aim at a beginning that shows the readers the characters, the conflict, and the setting. Now what?

The next thing that your picture book will need is some sort of tension.

We bet that you didn’t see this one coming. Believe us – there is always tension. There is always suspense that is wonderfully integrated into a picture book. You should have an effect on the readers – on every single page of the picture book; those kids should be wondering about what will happen on the next page.

And to build up this kind of tension, the kids need to see the characters fail. A lot of picture books do this in a rule of three, which means that the characters fail at least three times before they eventually succeed – to the great relief of the readers.

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Nonetheless, since it is your picture book and you are the director of the story, you don’t have to make your characters fail this many times. All you need to do is to make your readers see the characters try to reach their goals and fail miserably.

This kind of tension will always lead to the darkest moments. You get the point – the readers need to see the characters reach a low point before their ultimate success. Novels are typically written the same way, but picture books do it more concisely.

Don’t Drag the Story

Characters will succeed in the picture book. The characters will actually reach that ultimate goal that they have been working toward from the very beginning of the book. The character’s success is the ultimate completion of the goal and addresses the problem the characters had in the beginning.

At this point – everything is good. The readers feel fulfilled. A common mistake that newbie picture book writers make is dragging this out. And if this is your first attempt at writing a picture book, we recommend avoiding dragging this aspect out – the very moment the characters have accomplished the goal, you will want to end the story.

Why – you may ask! Well, the answer is quite simple. You will want to end the story because there is no tension anymore. There is also no more suspense for the readers. They are aware that the characters have accomplished their goals.

By this point, the sooner you can wrap up the story, the better your picture book will appeal to the readers.

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Aim for a Cheeky Ending

Another thing that storybooks have is a slightly cheeky ending. Some might also call it a wink to the readers. At this point, the entire story has happened, and you are reading the very last page of the picture book – and there is that little something that sparks an idea in the mind of the readers that makes them continue the story in their heads.

The wink to the reader serves a purpose – it is meant for the reader to continue thinking about the story and even continue the story in their imagination.

Final Thoughts

Did you know that the great thing about being a children’s book author or illustrator is that you can write and illustrate from anywhere? Even if you have a busy schedule, you can fit this task around your day or week. You can work on weekends or in the evenings.

Even if you manage to put only an hour into it, you can find great results. However, even if it is a picture book, you might want to find a dedicated workspace where you can work and illustrate without interruption and distractions.

Consistency is the key here – if you have an idea that you believe would make your young readers happy, you might start working on it immediately. Start by illustrating the picture book, and then you can use precise yet powerful words to convey the story.


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