Archive for the ‘picture book’ Category

Let me say straight out that I found the instructions for making one of these fold-it-yourself books on this site, by the lovely Nancy I. Sanders, who shares so much of her wisdom about writing for children and schools via her many books. Previously, I have made my own dummies in a totally different way – less fun but maybe easier for including lots of pages.

Today I didn’t want many pages. But I did want twice as many as provided by one sheet of A4. So I simply made two and worked out which panels had to be glued together to make them one. This gives 12 mini pages and a cover and back.

And why a small one and not a 32-page picture book? Because I am still interested in writing for early readers or those who will only read something less threatening than a book, and perhaps also those children who like facts more than fiction.

I still had to pay attention to choice of words, and also how to put them on the page, leaving space for some line drawings in ink. And this is only a draft and a trial. But I thought I’d share the link and image, in case it’s exactly what you were needing to know. Chances are you are ahead of me and knew how to do this already!

You could use any layout software if you want to do it in type rather than handwriting – I used Pages on the Mac and deleted the grid before printing. Handwriting is all good though.

If you have children or grandchildren and want to write a very short bedtime story and put a few line drawings in, that would be a great way to do it.

Better still, with slightly older kids, your could write the story together, get them to learn how to fold it (for any future stories they write), and get them to put a few illustrations in! Simple is best 🙂

Here is a picture of my finished booklet.

Screen Shot 2018-03-13 at 11.14.25



I seemed to be drawing a lot of owls, so when my granddaughter was visiting, we talked a lot about owls and stories. And eventually, when she’d gone (useful that, having a lively discussion of ideas!), I came up with a story about an owl who was looking for his breakfast at dusk.

When I’d fleshed out the idea, I did take time to go back to the general rise and fall of a picture book story (as I often do with PBs). The structure goes something like this, although you will find variants all over the internet:

First: What is the story question?
1 Problem
2 Incident intensifies
3 Reaction to worsening
4 Thwarted efforts to sort this out
5 Character suitably reacts
6 Find a successful solution

I went through checking that there was all this ‘shape’ to it – and then wrote it.

And then trimmed it! Taking out everything that could be better shown in the illustrations. (This would, of course, assume an illustrator with greater talent than me knowing how to make magic of the scenes I can see in my head!)

The easy bit for me is editing my text so that it has rhythm and balance and alliteration and surprise. The difficult bit will be finding a publisher for this, ahem, masterpiece!

I’ve started the trawl now. In case it helps anyone out there, here is a wonderful website page, made and updated regularly by Lou Treleaven, which lists publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts. She deserves a medal. (Agent Hunter is good if you want an agent, though.)

But just in case you miss seeing an owl while you read my ramblings about an owl story, here is a recent and surprisingly relevant one I did, though I won’t tell you why! It just happened, unconnected with writing any story.

mouse in hand and owl


Not ‘woes’, as in I can’t, but just wondering how you ever make a picture book sound like a story when you have left significant things to be shown in the illustrations only!

I was thinking this especially today as the SCBWI organisation (for children’s book writers and illustrators) is holding an illustration thingy for picture book stories of just 350 words to be read out and one chosen to be given a critique by an agent. It’s for the whole membership, and only 100 slots are available – from whom finalists will be picked. OK, fine. It doesn’t matter that I can’t manage it. The slots were probably filled two minutes after the competition opened!

But all my picture book texts in embryo form wouldn’t hang together if ‘just read out’. I thought the point was to show not tell!

So – let me explain the latest place where it would be a problem. I got this idea after sketching a little girl with a pencil who is picking up the shavings.

Day 9a girl and shavings

This  gave me the idea to do a picture book about a girl who is small for her age and doesn’t want to go back for a second day at school in Reception class, aged 4+ (UK schooling system). At one point in the story, there would be this line: ‘But the children couldn’t agree about what made them happy.‘ On the next page there would be nothing but a spread of chaotic children in pairs arguing about how to make the picture they have to make in class. A bit of text, attitude, thought images etc would show it all. But it would sound bizarre to read on, in public, to the next bit, without the public knowing what this spread had shown. So no, I won’t be entering that sort of competition haha.

What I will be doing is making up a dummy to show which illos would go on which page and cutting up text and sticking it in place – and then sending it with the whole manuscript to someone or other to find it’s fortune. Wish me luck!

(Ps I think Jojo bows have gone out of fashion now, so the girl in the story will not look like that sketch I did!)


Every now and then I remember to practise drawing the same character from different viewpoints doing different things. You may remember this attempt. I was at it again in the last couple of days, only this time I gave him (or is it a her with shortish hair?) some huge objects to manhandle. I was just being whimsical. But then some ideas came to mind.


He feels little in his family. Maybe he has a skill no one really notices. Maybe there is some incident when he knows he could help but no one even glances at him.

So what happens? *shrugs* Well, maybe he has to surreptitiously assemble the things he needs, in order to do whatever he needs to do to sort it out! So, stretching my brain a bit… he, um, steals the sharpener to sharpen the pencil, then draws the image and finally paints it.

That latter image was meant to be pastel sticks but looks more like watercolour paints – except for the lack of a mixing lid! He struggles to lug this one to his bedroom…

So yes, I don’t have time right now because a 400-page book has to be proofread this week for a publisher. But this is how a story could grow in my head, needing many revisions obviously, but perhaps it could be made to work if I really wanted to.

Nice to have conjured up a spark on a cold, icy day 🙂 Happy new year to you all.