SCBWI's Blueboard - A Message & Chat Board

Is there ANY chance for a PB like this?

Discussion started on

Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region losangeles
Hello,

I have a story that I have been working on that is much too long, given current PB trends.

The story is about a child with selective mutism (though it is not specifically named in the story). Selective mutism is when a child speaks in one environment (such as home) but not in others (such as school).

I am a speech-language pathologist. I don't work with children with selective mutism, but I actually had selective mutism when I was in preschool. I wanted to write something fun and light that isn't necessarily focused on whether the main character speaks. However, the main character gradually becomes more communicative as the story progresses.

My problem is that, even after several rounds of cutting, I am at around 1200 words. I am sure I can cut more, but, realistically, I don't think  I can tell this particular story in less than 1000 words.

I wrote this story as part of a children's book writing course where I was able to get critique from fellow students and the instructor. The instructor was very enthusiastic about the story (I think it was around 2000 words at that point), but suggested I might want to consider it as a chapter book.

From everything  I have read and researched, this book is too long for a PB. However, in my heart of hearts, I want it to be a PB. I feel it would work best as a book that could be read to a child by a trusted adult, rather than one that the child reads independently. (By the way, a peacock features heavily in the story, so I do think there is great potential for illustration.) Am I on a fool's errand to try to pursue this as a PB? Is there any place for a PB like this?

Thank you so much for reading, and for any thoughts you may have.
#1 - April 01, 2021, 09:29 AM

Roving Moderator
Poster Plus
  • **
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region westcentny
I would rethink every word of you manuscript with the thought, "Can this be illustrated if I cut the text?" if the answer is YES, then cut that text. I'd definitely try to get it under 1000 words. Maybe you can find someone to swap with on the Boards here.
#2 - April 01, 2021, 11:01 AM
BLACKOUT -- available now
DESERTED -- available now
SISTERS DON'T TELL -- available now
www.deenalipomi.com

Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region losangeles
Thank you so much. I will keep looking for ways to cut! I was beginning to feel discouraged, wondering if I get to around 1000 if it still might be too long even to be considered. I do think, now that I have revised heavily, I need to get eyes on it again. I'll plan to start looking on the appropriate thread for critique partners soon!

#3 - April 01, 2021, 11:35 AM

Member
Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region mddewv
1000 words is still too long for a fiction PB these days.  Ideally, based on current trends, traditional publishers want to see about half of that (give or take) for a fiction PB text.
#4 - April 02, 2021, 04:54 AM

Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region losangeles
Thank you. Yes, that is in line with what I have been hearing.

I'll admit that saddens me a little bit. Not only as someone who has written a couple of PB texts now that are "too long."  But also as a speech-language pathologist who has spent the last couple of decades working with toddlers and preschoolers. In my work, I have always gravitated to short texts, because that's what works in the context of a therapy session with a child with language (and often other) challenges. But my daughter enjoyed longer texts before she was three, and I always felt those lengthier, more complicated, wordier stories were good for her language development, auditory attention, etc.

I suppose the market is what it is, despite my opinions, haha. I do appreciate the response! Thank you!
#5 - April 02, 2021, 07:29 AM

Member
Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region mddewv
Yes, that is in line with what I have been hearing.

I'll admit that saddens me a little bit.. . . my daughter enjoyed longer texts before she was three, and I always felt those lengthier, more complicated, wordier stories were good for her language development, auditory attention, etc.

I totally agree.  My children also enjoyed lengthier texts when they were younger.  I also remember way back when "The Polar Express" was such a huge sensation, and that picture book is well over 1000 words.  I'm not sure when or why things changed.  All I know is that it has.  I learned this the hard way.  A few years ago, I paid an agent for a professional critique of my picture book manuscript.  She practically laughed at me for giving her a 1,000 word story.  This was at a conference where the picture book editors were showing off their new fiction publications which I noted were all around 300 words tops.
#6 - April 02, 2021, 07:38 AM

Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region losangeles
Yes, "Make Way For Ducklings" is another one that comes to mind. I think I loved that story as much as my daughter did, haha. And whenever we were in the car, we had CDs of stories playing (mostly Barefoot Books of Princesses/Fairies/Animals, etc.).

I suppose I have to think about what to do with a story that is "too long" to be a PB, but too short to be a chapter book. I think there is only so much more I can compress it . . . so maybe it is time to think of expanding it into a chapter book.

#7 - April 02, 2021, 07:49 AM

Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region losangeles
Wow, that's awful you were laughed at for your "long" PB text. Thank you for not laughing at me, and sharing your experience!
#8 - April 02, 2021, 07:52 AM

Member
Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region mddewv
I suppose I have to think about what to do with a story that is "too long" to be a PB, but too short to be a chapter book. I think there is only so much more I can compress it . . . so maybe it is time to think of expanding it into a chapter book.

Short Edition publishes some lengthier children's stories online.  Their target audience is 8-12 year olds.  See here:
https://short-edition.com/en/
#9 - April 02, 2021, 07:58 AM

Member
Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region mddewv
Wow, that's awful you were laughed at for your "long" PB text. Thank you for not laughing at me, and sharing your experience!

Yes.  It was a rather demoralizing experience to say the least.  I hung up my picture book efforts for a while after that.  And it encouraged me to focus on writing plays for children instead.  Interestingly, I ended up having a number of successful experiences in the theatre world as a result.  So, there was a silver lining to come of it -- just not what I had expected. 
#10 - April 02, 2021, 08:10 AM

Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region losangeles
Wow. Thank you for sharing that! It's inspiring to hear from someone who found one door closed, but then found a completely different door.  :yourock
#11 - April 02, 2021, 08:26 AM

He is Risen! Alleluia!!!
Global Moderator
Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region carolinas
YES! I know that short is in but there's room for PBs that are longer. I would consider publishers like Charlesbridge who do publish longer PB texts. But Melissa, I would also consider your writing group's suggestion to redo it as a chapter book--it's a completely different animal than the PB because you really have make it easy to read for kids to read on their own but it doesn't mean that's the only way. When my kids were little we read both PBs and CBs while we cuddled. And we read many MG stories aloud up until age 12. All best.

Gosh, I love peacocks so I hear you on the desire for gorgeous illos.
#12 - April 02, 2021, 09:21 AM
Little Thief! Max & Midnight, Bound, Ten Easter Eggs & 100+ bks/mags
https://vijayabodach.blogspot.com https://bodachbooks.blogspot.com

Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region losangeles
Thank you so much, Vijaya. It's great to know about Charlesbridge. I'm certainly going to have to do my homework before tackling the chapter book possibility. I guess the best plan right now is to keep writing, and keep learning. :)
#13 - April 02, 2021, 12:06 PM

Global Moderator
Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region longislandny
Chapter books are also read to (or with) kids. They start a about 5000 words, but they almost always come as part of a series. That's something to keep in mind.

 It is definitely a good idea to post for critique here (https://www.scbwi.org/boards/index.php?board=121.0) or find critique partners here (https://www.scbwi.org/boards/index.php?board=127.0.)

It's hard for us to give good advice on this without seeing the work. Also, look up selective mutism and book for kids. I know I've seen at least one mentioned in a Children's Bookshelf recently. An Amazon search turns up a few. Good luck.
#14 - April 02, 2021, 06:26 PM
Website: http://www.debbievilardi.com/
Twitter: @dvilardi1

Emeritus
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region houston
YES! I know that short is in but there's room for PBs that are longer. I would consider publishers like Charlesbridge who do publish longer PB texts. But Melissa, I would also consider your writing group's suggestion to redo it as a chapter book--it's a completely different animal than the PB because you really have make it easy to read for kids to read on their own but it doesn't mean that's the only way. When my kids were little we read both PBs and CBs while we cuddled. And we read many MG stories aloud up until age 12.

Ditto! My son got frustrated with the shorter PBs and chapter books so we started MG read-alouds when he was two! We also managed to hit the jackpot with a "bargain" storybook from B&N about dinosaurs.
#15 - April 02, 2021, 06:41 PM

Hi, Melissa--could you possibly write it in verse? Not rhyming, just lyrical. I do that with picture book biographies and I got one down to 150 words. My agent had me make it longer, so now it's up to 300. It's about an artist, so the words soar and swoop.
#16 - April 13, 2021, 07:03 PM

Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region losangeles
Your project sounds amazing! I don't really know if I could translate this story to verse. I think it is just not in my skill set!

I submitted my project for the SCBWI WIP award, but other than that, I think I'm going to set it aside for a bit. I feel like it is around the right length to tell this particular story . . . but I know that it doesn't fit into the current expectations for the market.

The good news is I am excited about a new idea for a chapter book project. I definitely have a lot to learn about writing chapter books, so I am going to focus on learning more about that, and get going on this new idea.

The picture book text I asked about here is very close to my heart and I hope I can share it with children someday. But for now I will keep writing and exploring other ideas. I really would like to learn more about writing in verse sometime too!
#17 - April 14, 2021, 06:02 PM
« Last Edit: April 14, 2021, 06:22 PM by melissa-haylock »

Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region easternny
I received an offer on a PB that was over 1,000 words--because that is how that particular story needed to  be told.  So listen to the recommendations, but ultimately follow your instinct.
#18 - April 18, 2021, 10:37 AM

Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region losangeles
That's wonderful! Thank you for sharing that with me. :)
#19 - April 18, 2021, 02:08 PM

Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region easternny
Good luck!
#20 - April 18, 2021, 04:00 PM

New Poster
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region newengland
I've also dealt with having a PB that was too long at first. I found what helped me to shorten it up was to take each paragraph and boil it down to a single sentence that captured the essence of what was being said. This actually enhanced the story greatly.

I also found it helpful to "pitch" a summay of the story to a couple of friends. With each telling I refined the summary a little more until I had a really solid base. Then I  use this summary as a core that I could hang the boiled-down sentences off of.  Really, thinking of the process as "boiling down" the narration to its most essential parts was really helpful for me. It might help you too if you are still interested in making this story a Picture Book.

 
#21 - April 23, 2021, 04:48 AM

Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region losangeles
Thank you! This whole thing (and my experience writing a piece that I have submitted to Highlights Mag) has made me wonder if I am perhaps more suited to writing chapter books. To that end, I have started a new project!

I am sure I will revisit this story and try to figure out what to do with it. But I think I might need to set it aside for a bit . . .

Thanks again!
#22 - April 23, 2021, 10:36 AM

Members:

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.