So where do you start when it comes to writing and illustrating picture books? What about if you don’t have the money or the time to complete a degree in Illustration and creative writing?
I would like to share some beginner tips and processes I have found useful.
- Go seek out your local library and even though it may feel awkward at first (and probably painful bending down to the height of the book cases), loan out as many picture books as you can. At first, I suggest reading through each picture book like any reader, enjoying the story and illustrations.Then on the second read through, take it very slowly, focusing on each sentence, one at time. To really slow down the process, I actually write out the whole story on another piece of paper like this:
Left page- record the sentence
Right page- record the sentence
Left page- record the sentence
Right page- record the sentence and so on….
There is something about writing out each sentence out, that with time helps you start seeing writing patterns among picture books. It strengthens your knowledge about picture book language, what special techniques are used by writers to create a clever page turn and highlights how the writer has moved the story along with so few words.
On the third read through, focus solely on the illustrations. How have the illustrations been used to add to the story line? Examine the layout of the illustrations on each page and look for where the sentences are placed in relation to the illustrations. I have found particularly useful is recording in a sketchpad, rough thumbnails of different layouts and compositions I see in each picture book. You might also find collecting examples of picture book illustrations and compositions on your own Pinterest boards a great reference to go back to.
- Explore picture book blogs on the web, join the ‘Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ (they have locations around the world) and listen to podcasts that focus on picture books.
Here are my personal favourite picture book blogs and podcasts you might want to check out:
- What I have found most useful lately is starting to write picture book reviews with a special focus on the writing and illustration techniques. During these picture book reviews, I have looked at the whole design of the book from the cover to the end pages. With each picture book review I have included a honest rating scale which has caused me to make comparisons of picture books and examine in detail what ingredients make up a fantastic picture book.
- Look out for any available day or two day courses in picture book illustrations and writing. You might not be able to afford the expense and time off to do full time or part time study but completing short courses on the weekends could be another good option to supplement what you are learning from the library, podcasts, the web and picture book societies.
Hopefully, all these tips I have shared will start you on the way to writing and illustrating picture books. In the blog posts coming up, I have plans to share personally where I am up to with creating my own picture books and steps towards indie publishing on all the platforms like Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play as well as directly on this blog.
I will leave you for now, with a sneak look at one of my draft page layouts for a picture book I have created for “The World of Millie” series. As an very inpatient illustrator, I don’t use small thumbnails to work out the compositions or layouts. Instead, on separate see through paper I sketch out each illustration I want on the page. I then move the cut out illustrations around on a blank page before tracing them out, once I’m happy with the composition.
Now it’s your turn. I love for you to share, comment and add to the beginner tips for illustrators and writers of picture books so it can be a good resource for all.