by Darcy Pattison

You’ve written a picture book manuscript and now you want to know if it’s ready to send out. Here are seven crucial questions to answer.

The first three questions focus on the overall story.

1. Topic: Is the story kid appropriate, kid appealing?

2. Language: Is the story age appropriate? Have you used interesting, fun language? Have you allowed places for kids to join in, such as a refrain to repeat?

3. Illustrations: Have you left space for the illustrator? Don’t describe every visual, but leave that to the illustrator. However, DO add things you touch, smell, taste and hear.


From BEAR SNORES ON by Karma Wilson & Jane Chapman

The next four questions focus on the structure and how well the story will lay out in a 32-page format

Instructions for these questions:  Divide your manuscript into a minimum of fourteen sections, with each section a scene in the story. The fourteen sections will roughly be equal to the number of double page spreads in a 32-page picture book. (If you have fewer than fourteen sections, it’s probably a magazine piece, not a picturebook.) Now, consider each section and answer these questions.

4. Does each section have an action to illustrate?

5. Does each section make you want to turn the page?

6. Does each section advance the story? If you take out a page, does it destroy the story?

7. Does the plot have a narrative arc with a beginning, middle and end?

If you answered, “Yes” on all these questions, then submit your story with confidence.

Not sure about any of the answers? Children’s book author Darcy Pattison and children’s book author/illustrator Leslie Helakoski will co-lead a unique workshop, PB&J: Picture Books and All That Jazz at Highlights Foundation in Honesdale, PA on April 23-26, 2015. Join them and learn how to make your story rise above the fierce competition.