by Laura Zarrin
Picture Book Idea Month is over. You have ideas waiting to be developed. Now what?
As a kid and all the way through college, writing came easily. Essays or essay questions? No problem. I loved to really pad those answers. Fast forward to now and that ease is completely gone. Sometimes I have no words, not even a decent name for the file I’m writing in. What happened to the free flow of words? Maybe they shriveled up and died from lack of use. Maybe I spend so much time drawing that the words have gone to sleep? I’m sure it’s a lot of things, but one thing that’s different is that while the more words the better method worked in school, it’s the wrong approach to writing picture books where brevity rules. As a mom and an illustrator, I appreciate brevity. Short books were my favorite since I’d have to read the same book over and over and over again.
As an illustrator, I approach my stories through pictures first. I ‘see’ them before I write them. I’ll sketch out the character or a scene and see where it leads. Sometimes I’ll be so inspired that I’ll write a quick first draft. It’ll be horrible, but that’s ok. The point is to get something written out. To begin. I can always go back and edit it or completely rewrite it. Mostly, I have to let the ideas marinate in my head for awhile, sometimes years, to figure out what the real story is. I turn it around, hold it up to the light, add and subtract characters, try various what ifs, and grill it with questions until it feels solid. I really wish I could just snap my fingers to create the book dummies, but it just doesn’t work that way. Even though picture books are ‘simple’, they’re anything but easy. It’s like saying it’s so easy to draw in a simple and childlike way when it’s anything but. It takes a ton of work to get to the point where one can pull off ‘childlike’ effectively. One has to have a solid grasp of anatomy, technique and design to make it work. The same can be said of writing. It takes some serious chops to write a story in it’s simplest form.
I wish I could give you a formula. Heck, I wish I could give me a formula, but as it stands, my formula is to scribble, sketch, make lists, make notes, outline, research, work on character design, write then delete, draw, and draw, and draw, cry, give up, try again, and eventually there’s this thing that actually becomes a story.
My suggestion to you is to just begin. That’s often the hardest part of any project. Draw your character or a scene that’s calling out to you. Write the character’s bio, outline your plot or write a synopsis. Whatever feels like the easiest entry point to begin. Good luck!
Laura spent her childhood in the St. Louis area exploring creeks, woods, and attic closets, with plenty of tree climbing and digging for artifacts in the backyard all in preparation for her future career as an archeologist. She never became one because she realized she’s much happier drawing in the comfort of her own home while watching TV. Obsessed with the Little House books and Native American cultures, Laura drew lots and lots of pioneers and studied pictographs and books about that time period. When she was 12, her family moved to the Silicon Valley in California where she still resides with her very logical husband and teen sons, and their illogical dog, Cody.
Laura is giving away an 8×10 print of “Winter Dancing”.
This prize will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for this prize if:
- You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
- You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
- You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge.
Good luck, everyone!