10 Tips on Writing Picture Books

And now: a great guest column from picture book writer Jean Reidy, and her thoughts on the Top 10 Picture Book Takeaways from the Rocky Mountain SCBWI Conference. The panel she’s writing about was led by kids book editor Allyn Johnston and kids book illustrator Marla Frazee.


Jean Reidy is a freelance writer and
children’s author. Her first children’s
Too Purpley! comes out in Jan.
2010 (Bloomsbury) and will be followed
by Too Pickley! and two other books.


10. Beware of dialogue-heavy picture book manuscripts.

9. The only beef editors and agents have against rhyming picture books is that they’re so often poorly written.

8. Manuscripts need to be more perfect than ever before they’re ready for submission.

7. While marketing yourself is certainly important, a writer’s most important job is to make his/her book amazing.

6. Perfect picture books are like a dance between text and illustrations.

5. Adding just one word – the perfect word – to a picture book text, can carry layers of emotion like wistfulness, uncertainty or imperfection.

4. Picture book pacing is a combination of text on the page, text-free pages, punctuation, page turns, timing and breathing.

3. Even humorous picture books carry an emotional truth and strike an emotional and harmonic chord at the end.

2. Picture book endings should disarm us. They must have a touch of mystery, a touch of magic, and space for the reader to fill in the ending or ponder it.

1. If you ever have a chance to see Allyn Johnston and Marla Frazee present together, don’t miss it. You’ll leave with inspiration (and laughter!) for a lifetime.


The quickest way to get an agent’s attention
is a professional submission. That’s why you need
Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript, 3rd. Ed.
It has dozens of query letter examples (novels,
nonfiction, short stories, kids books and more).



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