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I Can't Draw the Book I Want to Write

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Hi.

Here's my problem. I am a writer. I have a manuscript. It is 29 words long. The words are skeletal. The pictures are everything. And I know exactly what I want them to look like. I just cannot draw them. The second half of the book doesn't even have words, just pictures!  Stuck in my head!  I really believe in this manuscript and idea, and it's maddening that, barring a decade of art school (assuming I have talent, which I doubt), it cannot get made.

(I do not feel this way about my other manuscripts. I will submit to publishers whose illustrator's styles I like, but other than that, I'm fine with having no input.  I respect illustrators immensely and believe we should put our faith in their vision. This one is a unique problem.)   

Any thoughts/suggestions/help?

Thanks.

Brianna Zamoborsky
#1 - February 21, 2015, 01:31 PM

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Illustration notes. Say you want a girl floating over a bed of roses, write that and the feeling you want to evoke with the page.
#2 - February 21, 2015, 03:09 PM
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I once critiqued just such a book for a writer friend. Her illustration notes were, in fact, the manuscript. it was an idea plus a few words, and a lot of images.
 :clover
#3 - February 21, 2015, 03:41 PM
THE VOICE OF THUNDER, WiDo Publishing
THERE'S A TURKEY AT THE DOOR, Hometown520

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Every single one of the books I'm working with has art/illustration notes. Pictures are just such an important part of picture books that it is hard to not use them to tell the story. If you believe in your book then write it! If you do a good job, the right publisher will see what you are trying to do and help you realize it.
#4 - February 21, 2015, 04:56 PM

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See this PDF of how Linda Ashman submitted her nearly wordless picture book, RAIN:
http://www.lindaashman.com/files/RAIN_Submission.pdf

Use as many illustration notes that are NEEDED to tell the story. Just make sure you're not describing things that the illustrator should decide - what people or things look like - unless it's essential to the plot.

Good luck!
#5 - February 22, 2015, 12:17 AM

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Thank you everyone for your comments.

Thank you, Lynda especially!  This is exactly the answer I needed.  I didn't know if you could give so much direction or not.  I will check out this book, which sound wonderful, and use this PDF a lot for reference.  It's funny because I just wrote Linda Ashman's name down in my notebook the other day as an author to check out for her excellent rhyming.  Now I really need to read her!

Thanks! 

P.S. My favorite tea is Earl Grey with milk or cream.  I know, boring.  But a classic.  And I have a Lavender Chamomile.  Mmmmm.
#6 - February 22, 2015, 01:52 PM

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My favorite tea is Earl Grey with milk or cream.  I know, boring.  But a classic. 

Me, too!   :drinktoast
#7 - February 23, 2015, 11:19 AM
THE VOICE OF THUNDER, WiDo Publishing
THERE'S A TURKEY AT THE DOOR, Hometown520

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http://mirkabreen.BlogSpot.com

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Brianna,
I used Linda's pdf of RAIN as a reference for my story that you just critiqued for me.
#8 - February 23, 2015, 10:37 PM
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Many children's books have no or few words, as you know. You will be explaining the text and non-text parts of your story in your query.

One way to get around this once you get past the query stage is to make a story board and sketch in what you envision on the page (very crude is ok) or describe what you see in your mind for that page. Such as: Page 4 illustration: Isabelle sits at the top of the sliding board, looking down the slide that seems to reach on forever.

That doesn't guarantee that a publisher would use your idea exactly.  But they would get the idea of where the story is going. You are merely giving them the concept, but if the concept is tight enough the illustration should follow naturally close to what you envision.

Best wishes,
Ellen Nibali
#9 - March 02, 2015, 07:33 AM

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Linda is AMAZING.

This is another one of her mss that proved helpful when I recently wrote a 29-word ms.

http://www.lindaashman.com/no_dogs_allowed__108750.htm
#10 - March 02, 2015, 09:05 AM
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Very helpful thread.

Tammi. You have adorable sayings and messages in your books' art work. Question for you: To what degree do you give art notes for your books. For example, in Duck Means Business, I'm guessing you suggested that Duck paint the sign at the end of the book (Noise Welcome 200-400), but did you also suggest the wording of the signs by the pond in the beginning? "Don't even think about it' "Keep off the grass' etc?

And in Mostly Monsterly, did you include art notes for Bernadette's description? (pointy ears, fangs, tail, etc)

Thanks, Tammi. I love your books and have always been curious about what art notes you include in your mss.

Della
#11 - March 09, 2015, 05:54 PM
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Hi, Della!

I use quite a few art notes in my mss, but I try to only include what I feel is necessary to the understanding of the story.

In Mr. Duck Means Business, I included notes for the signs in the beginning and for the sign in the end. I believe the art note for the beginning was something like this:

[Mr. Duck has signs posted all around his pond that state 'Shh!', 'Keep Off the Grass', 'Duck Crossing And That Is All', etc.]

I didn't use an art note for the Bernadette diagram. That awesomeness was all Scott Magoon.


I'll send you one of my mss so you can see how I use art notes. Email me at tksauer at aol dot com.
#12 - March 10, 2015, 04:02 PM
« Last Edit: March 10, 2015, 04:06 PM by Tammi »
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Interesting, Tammi. Thanks so much!
#13 - March 10, 2015, 05:33 PM
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You're welcome!
#14 - March 10, 2015, 07:26 PM
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Hey Brianna, you might want to check out the book Sidewalk Flowers by poet Jan Arno Lawson, illustrated by Sydney Smith. It's a wordless picture book. I haven't seen it yet, but the art looks fantastic. http://www.quillandquire.com/childrens-publishing/2015/02/24/qa-sidewalk-flowers-illustrator-sydney-smith/
#15 - April 08, 2015, 06:17 AM
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Art notes are fine, just like everyone else said above.  Susannah Richards said that Mara Rockliff wrote such impeccable illustrator notes and suggestions in her book "Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France" that the book came out beautifully.  So art notes are not out of the question.
#16 - April 17, 2015, 08:29 AM

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I agree with what everyone has said here. In fact, when I was getting started on my PBs, I queried an editorial contact in publishing to ask about the whole "I can't draw" conundrum and she suggested exactly what people are saying here.

I used brief bracketed notes alongside my text to give a spare idea of what I had in my head. I didn't get into design or what every corner of the page would look like because I am completely out of my depthySometimes the punchline to my text would be delivered by the illustrations, so having my text without illustration notes wouldn't effectively communicate that part of the story. Like, the text would be purposely understated/downplaying but the illustration would show the truth to comic effect -- if that makes sense?

She also suggested I include a list of illustrators in my proposal whose style I like/see as the kind of style for my book. It was with the understanding that those aren't going to be my illustrators and the list might ultimately be ignored but it gives the editors a better idea of my whole thrust. I did make sure to note that I understood the choice of illustrator was up to the publisher, not me.

I have been thinking seriously about taking drawing classes but I know my limitations and fear it would just be a waste of money.
#17 - May 16, 2015, 08:38 AM
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I have been thinking seriously about taking drawing classes but I know my limitations and fear it would just be a waste of money.

I doubt it would be a total waste. You might learn to think more like an illustrator. You might be better able to dummy your own books, even if you would burn the evidence later. You might be better at it than you think. You might meet some cool illustrator types who could act as crit partners. You would develop a vocabulary for line and color etc that you didn't have before (I can talk sports way better than I can play too.) This will help when you are interacting with editors, illustrators and art directors in the future.

I plan to do this one day. I have to have time first. I can find beginning art classes in my community for around 30 bucks plus materials. Not bad for the possible gains.
#18 - May 18, 2015, 11:32 AM
Website: http://www.debbievilardi.com/
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Thanks, everyone who contributed great info. Validated what I want to do. The two Linda Ashman pages are no longer available, alas. BTW, she's one of my favorite poets who are writing today, especially Stella book.
#19 - May 19, 2015, 10:49 AM
Carol Samuelson-Woodson

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Thank you all for all the help! I am going to format my manuscript in the style of the Linda Ashman ones. Excellent advice for a new reader!!! Thank yoU!

Brianna
#20 - May 19, 2015, 11:02 AM

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