“This is a short book because most books about writing are filled with bullshit. Fiction writers, present company included, don't understand very much about what they do
-- not why it works when it's good, not why it doesn't when it's bad. I figured the shorter the book, the less bullshit."
Stephen King, On Writing
“Writing is 1 percent inspiration, and 99 percent elimination.”
“The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending; and to have the two as close together as possible.”
“Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while you make it short.”
Henry David Thoreau
Brevity is one of my most important criteria for a re-readable picture book. Check out the others here.
Layers are created by including various plot devices in your structure. Here are examples of a few plot devices:
Smooth and Refined
It is crucial to remove snags and reduce friction as much as possible. Friction will wear your readers down fast. Minor obstacles feel big when you trip over them again and again. When you read a picture book multiple times, one little snag hurts.
Snags include poor rhythm, rude or gross humor, and predictable plots. Political incorrectness is also dangerous, as well as generalizations or incorrect statements about a race or culture.
A snag could be unattractive characters, muddy colors, or awkward posing from an illustrator's perspective.
When your readers can make a personal connection with the story in one way or another, it is a sure way to keep them reading. If you understand your audience and keep them in mind as your write and illustrate, you are likely to touch their hearts.
There was a time that I was rooting for longer picture book lengths. It was a time before I had kids.
When I had children, I discovered that as a parent, you would re-read the same picture book over and over and over again until you "lose" it on a trip or little fairies come to pick it up.
Friends, I have memorized Goodnight Moon word for word, my children have memorized Goodnight Moon, and that is only one of many.
The primary criterion for picture book re-readability is that it is short and straightforward. There is a point when it does not matter how entertaining or well-written a book was when you first read it; it will not entertain you after you've read it every day for a year.
"Like all sweet dreams, it will be brief, but brevity makes sweetness, doesn't it?" - Stephan King, 11/22/63
The Most Important Criteria for a Re-Readable Picture Book:
Check out mylist of books that you can read over and over again!
Brilliant Picture Books that dare to ask complex questions and evoke questions from readers.
Become inspired by these picture books:
"Deadlines just aren't real to me until I'm staring one in the face." - Rick Riordan
All Things Take Time
Imagine trying to ring water out of a dry cloth. It would help if you were full before you can produce anything, and that takes advanced preparation, study, and resources.
If you burn yourself out on the first deadline, you might set yourself up to miss subsequent deadlines.
For example, you might make a goal to exercise for one hour every day. But if you find yourself only exercising once per week, then you would do better to scale back to 15 minutes a day to avoid burning out and missing your goal.
When things get stressful, it is common to cut corners. As a result, you may sacrifice quality, quantity, or worse, you may plagiarise someone else's work.
Everyone knows that stress is bad for your health. Your body tells you that it is unhealthy by the way you feel during the process.
Relying on deadlines for inspiration and productivity is unsustainable for the reasons listed above, and I can't imagine that you would want to make it a habit. So why not try to break away from it and create positive habits? Practices without as many negative impacts on you and the project?
If you are in a creative rut:
You Don't Need Deadlines to Boost Your Productivity:
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Five picture books that are great for reading out loud to children.
Last week I watched a class on SkillShare by Andy J. Pizza called "Find Your Style: Five Exercises to Unlock Your Creative Identity." Let me share a gem that stuck with me:
"It is not about skill, not about what you can do, but what you can receive. The depth of your receptivity. Your pallet." -Andy J. Pizza
I have heard that you must be at least moderately intelligent to know whether or not you are smart. Similarly, it would be best if you had good taste in art to tell whether or not you've created good art.
Whether they are a writer or illustrator, one goal for every creator should be to fine-tune their reception. Learn to tell the good from the bad.
Make a goal to study one picture book every day. Develop your craft by building upon your creative intelligence.
While you read, you can use my Picture Book Writing Cheat Sheet to help you learn to analyze the text and story critically.
Hi, my name is Cory Shaw. I am an author and illustrator of books and book covers for children.
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