"How I Write a Picture Book" -- Author Steve Light Explains His Process

The sketchbook is filled with pictures and possibilities of what the story can be. I leave it up to my Editor and Art Director to pick out the things that they think our audience will respond to. Then I start figuring out what is going to happen inside this wonderful 32-page picture book I get to create. Some writing will take place at this point but only of plot points or beats I want to hit in the story. Sometimes a line or a phrasing will appear.
Author:
Publish date:
Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title

Column by Steve Light, who has drawn corporate illustrations for
AT&T, Sony Films, and the New York Times Book Review. He has
published 12 children’s books by Abrams, Candlewick Press and
Chronicle Books. His latest book is ZEPHYR TAKES FLIGHT (October
2012, Candlewick). School Library Journal says, "Light's story is engaging,
but the true star of this book is the art showing Zephyr's sadness or
determination. Another aspect of the book that really stands out is its
take on gender roles." Steve Light has also had his Steve Light Storyboxes
produced by Guidecraft. Teachers, Parents and Children can use the
props in a storybox to tell a story. Steve loves to draw and sharing his
art and stories with children. His website is www.stevelightart.com.

Here is how I create a picture book:

1. All my stories start with pictures.

2. Usually from pictures I have drawn in a sketchbook.

3. Then a story builds until it needs to come out of the pages of a sketchbook and become a book. I never think of myself as a writer! Writers are these magical people who can turn a phrase and craft a novel. I consider myself a storyteller and artist, a maker of things. Even when I am telling a story with one of my storyboxes, I see pictures of the story, like a movie in my head. I never think of the words, they just come out of my mouth to describe the pictures I am seeing.

When “writing” a book, I present a sketchbook to my Editor and Art Director that is about an idea. I have been lucky to find an Editor and Art Director who understand me and the way I work. They understand that the visuals come first and embrace this. So the sketchbook I show them could be filled with flying machines or dragons that live in the city, all drawn with a fountain pen usually.

(How to help an author promote their new book: 11 tips.)

The sketchbook is filled with pictures and possibilities of what the story can be. I leave it up to my Editor and Art Director to pick out the things that they think our audience will respond to. Then I start figuring out what is going to happen inside this wonderful 32-page picture book I get to create. Some writing will take place at this point but only of plot points or beats I want to hit in the story. Sometimes a line or a phrasing will appear.

Once pencil drawings have been made in a 32-page “dummy” book then the words for each page can be written. Once the words and pictures are approved then I get to create the final art.

Creating the final art is like being transported into the pictures that have been filling my mind since first drawing the ideas in a sketchbook. That world is a most wonderful place, a place I love to be. Writing for me is an escape from the world outside and the pictures are the doorways. I do not know how others create picture books but this has worked for me and I love doing it.

Image placeholder title

If you're writing a picture book for kids and
looking to get it published, let us help you!
The Writer's Digest 2nd Draft service has
professionals who edit picture books to make
sure your work is as good as it can be
before submission. Learn more here.

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

Image placeholder title

Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more.
Order the book from WD at a discount.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Under the Influence

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Under the Influence

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let a character fall under the influence of something or someone.

WD-PersonalEssay-2020-WinnerGraphic

Suspended: Writer's Digest Personal Essay Awards Winner

Congratulations to J.E. Stamper, grand prize winner of the Writer's Digest Personal Essay Awards. Here's his winning essay, "Suspended."

Planting Clues: Red Herrings That Fool but Don't Frustrate Your Readers

Planting Clues: Red Herrings That Fool but Don't Frustrate Your Readers

Want to know how to keep your readers engaged and entertained with your mystery novel? Let these six tips from thriller author Kris Calvin guide you!

April PAD Challenge

2021 April PAD Challenge: Day 15

Write a poem every day of April with the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge. For today's prompt, write a blank story poem.

Kristin Beck: On Writing Quickly and Publishing Slowly

Kristin Beck: On Writing Quickly and Publishing Slowly

Debut novelist Kristin Beck shares what it was like to write her historical fiction novel Courage, My Love and why she was so thankful for a slow publishing process.

Whitney Hill Elemental

Whitney Hill: Self-Published E-Book Awards Winner

Whitney Hill, winner of the 8th Annual WD Self-Published E-Book Awards, talks fan fiction, creating her own stories, and why she chose to self-publish.

8 Tips to Build Your Supportive Writing Network

8 Tips to Build Your Supportive Writing Network

Writing can be a solitary activity ... but it doesn't have to be. Let author Gale Massey give you some tips for building a supportive writing network.

April PAD Challenge

2021 April PAD Challenge: Day 14

Write a poem every day of April with the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge. For today's prompt, write a "from where you're sitting" poem.

Tension in Poetry: The Hidden Art of Line-Writing

Tension in Poetry: The Hidden Art of Line-Writing

Writer and editor Matthew Daddona explains how to easily create tension in your poems and how that adds weight to your message.