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Picture book craft discussed in gruesome detail

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Thanks for making your articles available.  I've only read the first, will read the rest over the weekend.  I hadn't thought of the story arc in terms of "rebirth" and "voyage and return," but it got me thinking about plot in a new way.  I've been tinkering with some picture book ideas...

--Butterfly
#2 - September 09, 2011, 04:30 PM
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Good stuff.
I remember that skit on Black Books - classic.

I have written a novel and a few picture books. You are correct: it is easier to write a picture book than a novel.

Thanks for posting.
#3 - September 09, 2011, 04:37 PM

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Thanks Butterfly - I'm glad the articles are providing food for thought. Sorry they're so long, I have a tendency to go off at tangents.

And it's good to 'meet' another Black Books fan, Eric. The moment that always gets me is when Bernard and Manny look at each other and go 'It's not there either!' in unison, smug as anything hehe.
#4 - September 09, 2011, 05:50 PM

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Those are good articles!  I should say--a good series of articles.  May I suggest one more?  The most important thing that nobody ever tells a picture book author is that you have to be original--and yet, not too original.  I see so many mss. from people who are just writing something that's already been done over and over again.
#5 - September 09, 2011, 08:24 PM
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Interesting posts, but I have to disagree on this, from your first post:

"It’s easier to write a picture book than a novel. I’m sorry, but it just is."

It's not easier. It may be quicker, but it's not any easier. I'd say that picture books are quicker to write, quicker to revise too (usually! Although I've read plenty of stories about renowned PB authors taking years to complete some stories), but that there's no less skill in writing a great picture book as there is writing a novel. So not easier, just quicker.
#6 - September 09, 2011, 08:42 PM

sahelsteve

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Thanks Betsy. Originality - that's a great one. In the comments section of one of the articles, someone recommended the PBs of William Bee and Oliver Jeffers. I had a look at them and thought Wow, I've never seen THAT before. It gives you a pleasant jolt when you see something new and interesting.

And Franziska, yes I see your point. I guess I was mainly thinking of the time factor, what with the PB being shorter and all. But PBs are a little easier all the same, don’t you think? I’m not just trying to be controversial for the sake of it, I’m trying to analyse my own experience, having written several of both. When I write a PB I am weaving with fewer threads. Plot is less knotty, characters are simpler. Dare I suggest that if someone takes years to complete a PB, they’re not working hard enough. Renowned but lazy, perhaps.

Payment is disparate, too, although I didn’t go into that in my articles. A novel takes at least ten times longer for me to write than a PB (probably more like fifty if I’m honest) but only pays three times more. Clearly that ratio will differ from author to author, but that’s the reality I’m facing at the moment.

Of course, it might prove to be a spurious comparison in the first place. Like comparing a marathon with a sprint, different skills are needed for different disciplines. Neither one is a better or more skilful runner.

But it’s hard to resist the temptation to compare!
#7 - September 10, 2011, 03:11 AM

it might prove to be a spurious comparison in the first place. Like comparing a marathon with a sprint, different skills are needed for different disciplines. Neither one is a better or more skilful runner.


Good point - different skill sets. I still say the picture book is easier to write.

Now if you're talking writing AND illustrating [as I do] that's a different matter.

 
#8 - September 10, 2011, 06:54 AM

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Apples and pears. I think it's probably a pointless comparison. A bit like comparing writing rock music to writing classical. For me, classical seems more difficult (longer, more instruments), but for a classical musician I bet writing a great heavy metal/rock/jazz/R&B/etc song with accompanying instruments/vocals would seem extremely difficult and time-consuming.

I'd also question whether writing with illustrating is actually harder. Again, it uses a different set of skills, and takes more time but is it actually more difficult? After all, you have the advantage of being able to see the visuals with the text, adjusting either to suit. Isn't that why picture books by author/illustrators often have a more cohesive feel that others might lack? The author/illustrators I know seem to enjoy what they do and I've never heard one complain that what they do is more difficult than writing novels or picture books.

I've found that with all the writing I've done it's all about learning/experience/time spent doing it. New ways of writing always seem more difficult but as I spend more time with that style/genre, it gets easier and easier.

So I guess I just disagree. I just don't think PBs are easier. Not good ones anyway!
#9 - September 10, 2011, 01:52 PM
« Last Edit: September 10, 2011, 01:57 PM by Franzilla »

sahelsteve

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So I guess I just disagree. I just don't think PBs are easier. Not good ones anyway!

Okay. I didn't intend any offense at all to picture book writers by the way. I love everything to do with the genre, including its practitioners  :biggrin:
#10 - September 10, 2011, 06:33 PM

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Thanks for sharing your helpful articles.  And the discussion about writing novels vs pbs has been interesting.  I agree with Franzilla--apples and pears.

Dare I suggest that if someone takes years to complete a PB, they’re not working hard enough. Renowned but lazy, perhaps.

You might not want to make this statement on Verla's forum.  Have you read her picture books?  Some of them have taken her years to write, and I defy anyone to call Verla lazy!  Her finished works are superb.
#11 - September 10, 2011, 07:43 PM

sahelsteve

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You might not want to make this statement on Verla's forum.  Have you read her picture books?  Some of them have taken her years to write, and I defy anyone to call Verla lazy!  Her finished works are superb.

Oops. Me and my big mouth.  :bricks

Far be it from me to enjoy somebody's cyber-hospitality and then call them lazy! I take it all back.
#12 - September 11, 2011, 04:44 AM

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I immediately thought of this thread when I read this, from Anastasia Suen (scroll down when you click on the link).

http://www.darcypattison.com/picture-books/25-year-revision/

Obviously she didn't work non-stop, eight hours a day, for 25 years, on this particular title (there'd be no other books from her otherwise!), but it does show how sometimes a picture books seems simple but takes a tonne of work to get right.

Hope you enjoy the read!
#13 - September 19, 2011, 09:26 AM

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Thanks, Franziska, I did enjoy reading that.

I have not attempted a novel, so I can't really say which is easier for me. I do know that to write a GOOD picture book is hard. Very hard. I guess the thing about it that feels like it might be "easier" (to me) than writing a novel is that, since it is short, it feels less burdensome to make drastic changes and go through many revisions trying to get it right. That's one reason (among many others) that I haven't attempted a novel yet. I feel like I could get through a first draft, but the revisions might kill me! So I agree with what you said -- to write a good PB isn't "easier" but simply quicker.

Carrie
#14 - September 19, 2011, 10:19 AM
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I'm making an assumption that we're talking about (picture) story books and not actual picturebooks (?)

I haven't written a novel but I have written one PB which is 80 words (to the point where its ready to go on submission and a few others that aren't worked up into a storyboard/dummy yet) - I don't think it's easy. I'd imagine that's because they have their own set of problems that are unique to PBs and not comparable with a novel at all. Trying to tell an exciting story with a beginning, middle and end in a few hundred words or less is very challenging. Even more so to do it in an original way. But I love that challenge so I'm not complaining...

It was really interesting to read your articles - I love to read about others' processes and opinions - even though there are a few points I can't identify with (I'm not as experienced as you so I may change my mind in the future...haha). I am VERY impressed that Christopher Corr illustrated your book. He's amazing - you must have been over the moon! The colours alone would be enough to make me pick your book up for a closer look.

I'm an author/illustrator and although that takes more time I'm glad that I can use both writing and illustrating to solve problems - as I write the words, the pictures are forming in my head. It must be difficult for a writer to hand over to an illustrator and 'let go' of the images in their own heads (no matter whether they would work or not)....just thinking out loud there, sorry, haha x







#15 - September 19, 2011, 11:48 AM
« Last Edit: September 19, 2011, 12:02 PM by maxi »
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