Saturday, November 17, 2012

Life, Loss, and Picture Books

Arthur Rackam

With life comes loss. Whether you lose a memento, job, home, pet, or loved one, the pain can feel the same.

With writing also comes loss...

Lately I’ve been mourning the loss of paragraphs, phrases, and words in my picture book manuscript.

Breaking up with a cleverly crafted phrase or an endearing scene can be excruciating. It’s so difficult to part with something you love.

After any period of mourning, it is imperative to move on. Often, life sends better things your way. 

I am starting to think as a picture book writer instead of a children’s book writer. I cut out anything that can be shown or explained with the illustrations. 

My manuscript has gone from 563 words down to 253 words. And you know what? It’s getting better. 

Here are some great quotes by picture book author Juliet Clare Bell on the subject:

“Editing picture book manuscripts is different from editing other manuscripts….A manuscript for a great novel will read as brilliantly as the novel itself. A manuscript for a great picture book will not. But that’s the point. It’s not MEANT to. It’s a picture book. It’s all about the book as a whole

“Remember, you’re not aiming for something that will flow beautifully without the aid of pictures (as it will look as a manuscript in your hands); you are looking for something that will flow beautifully as a picture book.” 

“…picture book editors know how to imagine the pictures. It's their job.” 

How do you deal with loss in your writing?


  1. Sounds like you have found the way to picture book publication. Keep up the condensing. That way, the illustrations will pop!

  2. For me, a very timely post, Sharon. I'm beginning to come out of my post-Sandy lull and the first thing I need to do is cut, cut, cut one of the stories I took to the Rutgers One-on-One Conference. I'm telling too much of the story.

    Great quotes from Juliet Bell. Thanks for sharing them!

  3. Thanks Gale. It IS hard to tell just the right amount of story. Best of luck with your word slashing!