August 15, 2017

Wordy Picture Books

Have you written a picture book?  How long is it?  Does it run 700 to 1000 words?

The truth is, most publishers want books that are no longer than 500 - 600 words. There are exceptions to this rule and some publishers will accept longer work. Most however, are looking for shorter pieces.

Let's say you love your 900-word book.  Every last word.  But, if you want to get it published, you'll have to trim it down.  It sounds almost impossible, especially if you've got an intriguing beginning, a compelling middle, and a satisfying ending. Where would you even begin to cut? 


That's what I faced with my upcoming picture book Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell. Originally the story was 1000 words. After reading many kidlit blogs and working with an editorial consultant, I learned that a lengthy story might be hurting my publication chances.  So, 500 words had to go.  Yep, half of the story.  Yikes!

The hardest part was trying to figure out what was not essential to the story.  And the answer was:  a lot of scenes in the middle. These extra scenes were funny, but not they did not advance the plot. 

After choosing three scenes to delete, the piece actually felt lighter, no 500 words to bog down the story.  The pace was smoother, like a kid skipping along a sidewalk. I grew to love this shorter version even better than the original.

So where will you cut words?  Read your story out loud.  Then take a look at the middle of your story.  Do some scenes slow the pace?  Remove them and read the story again.  Does it flow faster and smoother?  If not, cut a few more places that seem to bog the piece down.  Read your story again.  Does it have page-turn ability? Excellent!  A 500-word manuscript could make all the difference in capturing the attention of a publisher.

1 comment:

  1. ledinhchinh has left a new comment on your post "The Kids of Dandelion Township":

    What a great article, this information is really helpful for my life and my project. Thank you a lot! Ledinhchinh

    ReplyDelete