by Jodi Moore

It’s okay to write a 2,000+ word picture book.

*braces self for screams of disbelief, coffee cups dropped, any chance of securing another book deal/agent/critique opening vanish, my own editors paling in shock, possible angry mobs at my doorstep and Tara questioning why-oh-why did she ever ask me to guest blog for PiBoIdMo?*

Now, hold up. I didn’t say it would be publishable. I just said it’s OKAY to write one. In fact, sometimes it may be necessary.

As picture book writers, we are challenged to deliver big ideas in as few words as possible.  We are expected to fully develop our story, our characters, our plotline; captivate our audience; fashion a fabulous first sentence and create a satisfying end.

All while leaving room—and extending faith—for the illustrations.

It’s no easy task. So I ask…why would you limit yourself in the beginning with a word count?

Perhaps it may help to look at this in a different way. Let’s say I want to build a perfect sandcastle.  If I only look at a finished product, say, one of my husband’s illustrious creations, and size up the amount of sand comprising the castle itself, I may decide I only need a few large buckets of sand to complete the task.

But that’s not what he starts with. Larry begins with an entire sandy beach. Using a large shovel, he piles on tons of sand. He sifts through bucket after bucket of the grainy particles. He packs it high as a mountain, scraping up more sand than he could possibly need.

That proud hill is his main idea. It’s the structure. The mass from which he will carve out his masterpiece. It’s his 2000+ words.

And then, he sculpts. He edits. He revises until he can see the more subtle nuances of the castle. Sometimes, a wall will cave or a doorway will be in the wrong place. But that’s okay, because he still has plenty of sand left. He can add. He can rebuild. My husband hasn’t limited himself to a few buckets of sand.

Why should you?

From your comments and posts on both this forum and Facebook, I know that you’re all busy creating your own pile of ideas. Embrace them…and write what’s in your heart. Use every word that’s necessary and a few that – you may find out later – are not. Restricting your words too early on may constrict your idea, choking the very life out of it. Let it breathe; let it swell. Let those words FLOW.

There will be plenty of time to revise—and reshape!—later.

Writing picture books can be a DAY at the beach. Shed those limitations and dig in!

Jodi Moore is the author of WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN (May 2011, Flashlight Press) and the soon-to-be-published GOOD NEWS NELSON (Story Pie Press).  She writes both picture books and young adult novels, hoping to challenge, nourish and inspire her readers by opening up brand new worlds and encouraging unique ways of thinking. You can visit her at