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Writer's Room => Picture Books (PB) => Topic started by: eric-loya on June 01, 2019, 07:38 PM

Title: Newbie Formatting Question
Post by: eric-loya on June 01, 2019, 07:38 PM
Hi, folks! I find that I keep waffling back and forth about whether or not to post this, mostly because I suspect these are incredibly basic questions that I'm somewhat embarrassed to have to ask. That being said, though, I really want to feel like a part of this amazing community and I feel like if I don't just jump in with the embarrassing questions, five years from now I'll have one of those "Long time lurking, first time posting" kind of posts, and I'll have muddled my way through without ever actually having my specific questions answered.

And so, here we go.

I have a picture book manuscript that I wrote some time ago before I knew anything about anything. Because of that, I now know that the formatting is COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY WRONG!!! Like, couldn't be more not right, I suspect. I know revising is going to be quite a process (Is it ever not?) and I'm totally up for that... but I want to make sure I'm revising in the right direction.

One of the things I really like about this story is that the text and the visuals really complete each other in a lot of ways, working together to tell the story in a way that neither on its own would quite accomplish. I want to maintain that quality, but I'm not sure how to achieve this without just describing too much of the illustrations. When I first wrote it (again, had NO idea what I was doing), a wonderful artist friend of mine was going to illustrate, and so I felt comfortable detailing the images and having a dialogue with him which allowed both of our creative expressions to be their strongest. I now know that this is not the accepted way of things.

So, that's sort of the general thing that I'm concerned about. How do I draft a manuscript that makes clear that the visuals will complete the story where the words fall short? Most recently, I've seen something similar to what I'm talking about in Ame Dyckman's picture book, "Dandy." There's a moment in that book where the only text on a page is "But he was too late," but the image supplies the punchline which is that a Daddy lion is ready to cut down a dandelion in his yard but is thwarted when his young daughter has become fond of the dandelion. But again, the text itself doesn't reflect any of this. Further in this same book, the lions' neighbors act as something of a Greek chorus, speaking in word bubbles.

Both of these types of scenarios are in my story, and I just don't know how to tackle them. For the parts where the images provide context, I'm vaguely aware that I can include suggested Illustrator Notes, but I'm not sure how to do that effectively, and I also wonder if doing that too much throughout will result in automatic rejections. For the parts where a character speaks via word bubble, since there's no attribution such as "... he said" in the text, would I just write that part more like a script? Like, there's a part in my story where the text says something like, "A dragonfly flew by, not doing anything important," and the dragonfly actually responds to the narration, insisting, "Hey! I'm doing important things!" Would this be something like this:

A dragonfly flew by, not doing anything important.

DRAGONFLY: Hey! I'm doing important things!

Okay, yes. So those are pretty much my incredibly long-winded questions that I apologize for needing to ask. Thank you all for taking the time to read all this rambling nonsense.
Title: Re: Newbie Formatting Question
Post by: Anne Marie on June 02, 2019, 06:12 AM
You want to keep illustration notes to a minimum, but it's okay to use them when you really  need to.  Some editors have a dislike of them, but you can't control that.  My BUSY-EYED DAY needed an illustration note per line and I submitted two versions together, one without notes on top, and one with notes underneath it.

I haven't written anything with thought bubbles, but I don't think there's an industry standard for it. What you describe sounds fine, and there may be someone else who chimes in as well.

Anne Marie

Title: Re: Newbie Formatting Question
Post by: JodyJS on June 02, 2019, 06:17 AM
Hi Eric,

What Anne Marie said. You can do limited illo notes like this, to the right of your narration: [dragonfly is busy]
To the right of dialogue, you could do this: [Dragonfly] But, if Dragonfly has just been referred to, you won't need attribution.
Same thing for other speech bubbles. Just indicate to the right of the dialogue who's saying what, if it's confusing.

Title: Re: Newbie Formatting Question
Post by: eric-loya on June 02, 2019, 11:43 AM
Jody and Anne Marie, you're both amazing! Thank you so much for your help. It of course makes sense that clarity is the primary goal, but I know sometimes my idea of clarity doesn't match others' and I'd also hate to violate some rule that I'm unaware of in my quest for simplicity and clarity, you know?

Anne Marie, just to clarify, you're saying that your "Busy-Eyed Day" required you to describe the visuals for every single line of text, is that right? And the way you accomplished that was to include a copy of your manuscript with those descriptions, and also one without? Would that mean that the one without those descriptions was very confusing, as the text itself couldn't possibly have told the whole story?

If I'm right about all that, it's very reassuring, especially since it appears that your story sold and is published. It definitely renews my belief that my effort isn't a lost cause.

Thanks again!
Title: Re: Newbie Formatting Question
Post by: Debbie Vilardi on June 02, 2019, 06:23 PM
Hi Eric,

You have great advice above. One thing to keep in mind is that your cover letter will accompany your manuscript. It contains a few sentences that act as a story teaser. This helps clarify those moments too. It's also possible to include a few sentences of illustration notes at the top of the manuscript if something applies throughout. "Character actions contradict the narrator," for example.

I've seen manuscripts where the format for plays is used. I do think it may look odd to have that for only one part of the text though.

Once you've completed your revision, get beta readers or a critique group, either in person or online, to see what they think. That's often the best way to tell which notes you need and whether everything is working. Good luck.
Title: Re: Newbie Formatting Question
Post by: eric-loya on June 02, 2019, 07:11 PM
Thank you, Debbie. I really appreciate this!