Saturday, 9 October 2010

Format for Picture Book Texts

Picture book texts are a marriage between words and illustrations - there's a clue in the name. If you've written a text, you have to be aware of how it will appear on the page of the real thing. You have to be able to see it, the pages turning as a parent reads to a small child.

So that's the first thing. Although you're not going to illustrate it yourself, you have to be able to visualise how the finished book might look. When the book is open, you'll be looking at two pages at a time, the left and the right page. That's called a spread. Books are made by printing on enormous sheets of paper which are then cut and folded into 32 pages. (Longer books are made by glueing those 32 pages together - if you check the spine you can usually see the folds.)

With a picture book the first couple of pages will be taken up by a title page, and the publishing information page, the end pages will be perhaps more information on other titles. You have between 24 and 28 pages to play with, which translates to 12, 13 or 14 spreads. You have to work out how your story fits into those spreads - you might find folding up some sheets of paper to make a dummy book is useful.

Then you present the text in spreads....

Fergus lived with his mother in a cave on the edge of the deep dark forest.
One summer evening, Fergus was busy chasing butterflies.
'Time for bed,' said his mother.
'No, it isn't,' Fergus said, jumping higher. The day was still bright outside the cave.
'Time for bed,' his mother said again, scooping him up.

But Fergus wriggled out of her arms.
'I'm not going to bed,' Fergus said. 'I'm going to find an adventure.'
And he ran from the cave out into the forest.

The trees were tall and made long shadows across the path, but the leaves danced and rustled in the breeze.
'I don't need a mummy,' laughed Fergus as he skipped along. 'I'm going to have an adventure on my very own.'

(Illus: Mother Bear is in the background, hiding behind a tree)
(Illus: Dusk is falling)

And so on, keeping each spread together ie don't split them between pages. Add a word count and your contact details at the end, and you're done.


Liz Fielding said...

This took me back. I used to write picture stories for Twinkle!

womagwriter said...

I used to get Twinkle magazine!

Sarah Duncan said...

I must be too old - I don't remember Twinkle. But wow, that must have been a wonderful way to get started Liz, it must have been a real exercise in story-telling discipline - have you blogged about it?

Liz Fielding said...

I have talked about the discipline of writing a story in five sentences, no adverbs, perhaps one adjective. I will blog about it, though. Great idea.

Liz Fielding said...

Womagwriter - so that would be Nurse Nancy, Tessa's Toybox, poems and some straightforward stories for the annual.

I took my daughter to a meeting with the publisher when she was three and he asked her what she liked best. She still remembers that. :)

Sarah Duncan said...

Looking forward to reading the blogpost Liz.

Henrietta Bird said...

I loved Twinkle - I particularly liked Nurse Nancy as my grandad was a nurse and so was hers (doll's hospital tho, not real like my Grandad's).

Sarah I'm sure you're not too old!!!


Anne Booth said...

I am so impressed by Liz Fielding writing for 'Twinkle' - I loved it - and I absolutely loved Nurse Nancy!

Liz Fielding said...

I think Nurse Nancy was the really big one, Henrietta and Anna. Over two whole pages. My daughter wrote one for her Guides writing badge and got it published, too. First and last for her.

I'm off to scan one of the stories to put in my blog - right after I put the rubbish out. There's no prevaricator like an author with a column to write!

Sarah Duncan said...

Don't forget to post the link here!

Liz Fielding said...

Here's a link, Sarah

Sarah Duncan said...

Thanks Liz - it's a great post, really interesting. And what a brilliant training for a writer!