Week of June 24, 2012—Reflections from SCBWI, Orlando
Monday, June 25, 2012—Editor Sylvie Frank
Sylvie Frank, Associate Editor with Holiday House, was one of our speakers in the Picture Book Track at SCBWI, Orlando. Holiday House is an independent publishing house founded in 1935. Holiday House only publishes children’s books and their list includes around forty picture books annually.
Sylvie told us the most common reason picture book manuscripts are turned down at Holiday House is because the manuscripts are too quiet. Then she told us what makes for a great picture book.
YOU NEED A PLOT
Plot is basically the events in a story and their emotional impact. Sylvie referred us to the “plotting chart” which many of us know as Freytag’s Pyramid.
Sylvie divided plot into:
Setting, characters, conflict
R Complications/Rising Action
Catalyst that begins the major conflict, building suspense
The turning point in the story that occurs when characters come face-to-face with the conflict
R Falling Action
Events that bring the story to a close and the resolution of conflict (usually by main character)
Loose ends are tied up and the story comes to an end.
Picture books are for kids—think of five and six year olds. If you want to know more about kids, study them and spend time with them.
More than anything, characters must be relatable to the audience. Children must connect with the characters in a picture book.
Shorter manuscripts are usually best. Shoot for 700 words or less. Every word must be perfect and take out every word you do not need.
Don’t think design—think format. You need to see how the text of your manuscript spreads across the thirty-two pages of a picture book. The best thing to do is to make a dummy of your picture book—just for yourself—so you can see how the text lays out. This will also help you revise and edit your manuscript, find weaknesses, and more.
Your writing must come from a true place in your heart. Stories must come from genuine emotion.
REVISE, REVISE, REVISE
You must continue to work on your manuscript—revision is the key. Cut. Cut. Cut.
“The best way to get better at writing picture books is to read picture books.”—Sylvie Frank