The Story is Longer Than Fits in 750 Words
The only legitimate reason for writing a long picture book is if it is necessary to convey the concept or story properly. But don't use that as an excuse! Instead, it would be best to refine the story into the most supple, accessible, and precise language you can.
In this case, I think it is also essential to recognize the difference between an illustrated book and a picture book. It has less to do with the word count than the format, but it may be an important consideration. I want to elaborate on the difference in a future blog post. So, I will leave this idea open-ended.
To Vary Qualities of Language
Short word counts are beneficial because they help make the language more accessible to children. In addition, they force writers to communicate more clearly, and while they are not a defining characteristic of picture books, they are a hallmark of the craft.
However, word counts limit the characteristics of storytelling language. And I don't see any reason why variety and exploration shouldn't be celebrated or even encouraged.
You Want to Reach a Particular Audience
Some guidelines align word counts with age group, and while I think that they are helpful to get a general idea of your target audience, I do not give them a lot of thought.
As I said before, short word counts help make the language more accessible to children, but they are not the only factor of language quality or limited to only children. For example, I read and enjoy picture books with no words, very few words, and thousands of words.
I am an attentive reader and listener with interest in all kinds of stories and methods of storytelling. You can also find children who fall into this category, who engage with very long stories even without the ability to read.
On the opposite end of this spectrum is an audience of children and adults who do not enjoy storytelling or have short attention spans.
If you plan to write a longer picture book, you may appeal to children and adults in the former group.
There are many different arguments used to justify longer word counts. Unfortunately, I don't always agree with them all.
They say, "To Create a Multi-Dimensional Story / More Sophisticated Visuals and Humor / More Complex Emotional Dilemmas and Themes."
I say making a picture book longer will not add dimensions or sophistication to it. However, I concede that it is easier for adults to write a multi-dimensional story with more space. Lubna and Pebble by Wendy Meddour is my favorite example of a multi-dimensional story with a meager word count.
I find this comment rather sad. For some reason, people seem to think that short is simple, that children's art is unsophisticated or untalented, that children's books have no depth, and that is not true.
They say, "There is More Time to Savor the Pictures Before the Page Turn."
I say wordless picture books are very slow-paced and offer plenty of time to savor pictures. So, it is clear to me that word count itself does not create this problem. Instead, it is an unfortunate habit where readers turn the page immediately after they read the text.
In the end, the number one reason why you shouldn't write a longer picture book is that it is a lot harder for you and me to break industry recommendations. On the other hand, Brian Floca has a proven track record, and publishers could expect sales.
Why You Should Write a Longer Picture Book:
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Hi, my name is Cory Shaw. I am an author and illustrator of books and book covers for children.
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