Writing for picture books

Writing picture books may seem easy but by far, it is the most difficult one.

A novel can have more than 10,000 words but picture book may be only 100 words long (can be up to 1000 words but the less the better). Those words must be well chosen. If you read poetry or haiku, you know the difficulty of containing large thoughts in small spaces.

Here are some guides to help you write:

  1. Word count. 500-600 words is a good number to aim for. Some publishers accept 1000 words but it is better to keep it up to 600. The standard text is for 32 pages. The prelim, title page, dedication, takes up several pages. This leaves you with 25-28 pages to tell your story.
  2. Plot. Keep it clear and simple, based on a single situation that involves some action.
  3. Think visually. As you write, imagine the pictures that could accompany it.
  4. Pacing: Think about how you’d like the text to be broken up (page-break). It’s very important in a picture book to have a good rhythm, pace, and contain the drama of the page turn.
  5. Use interesting word. Never look down on the little readers.
  6. Go straight to your story. There’s no time for introduction or prolog.
  7. No need to describe things that can be shown in the illustrations. Example: you can write ‘Jenab found a book’ instead of ‘Jenab found a book lying on a bench in a park’. (Illustration: Jenab looking at a book lying on a bench in a park. To show that it is a park, you can illustrate a pond, some ducks, trees, people walking in the background). You get the idea, right?
  8. Avoid rhyming. Most publishers will remind authors not to rhyme because it will be hard for them to translate it into other languages.
  9. Read over and over again. Adjust and rewrite as you go until you are sure you can’t make it any better. Leave it for few days, and read again. You might have something to add or delete.
  10. Themes. Good children’s picture books need strong, universal themes. Examples: acceptance, tolerance, economic disparity, try something new, adventure, animals, gratitude, admitting mistakes, arts, autism, be yourself, courage, bullying, cause and effect, disabilities, friendship, judgement hope, war/peace, bereavement and much more. Ideally, good picture books have the power to change thinking and offer a new perspective.

Books in photo: Thumbelina( Hans Christian Anderson, retold by Brian Alderson/Bagram Ibatoulline), A Child Of Books (Oliver Jeffers/Sam Winston) and You Belong Here (MH Clark/Isabelle Arnault).

Alternatively, you can find these tips in Bahasa Melayu at TabulaKata. Thanks TabulaKata for the feature!

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Remember Nutella’s #YourNutella campaign that took place last year where you were able to get your name printed on a jar of Nutella? Well, the popular breakfast spread brand is back to exhilarate you once again by bringing forth #Nutellamessenger, a newer, more uplifting variant of #YourNutella. #Nutellamessenger allows you the opportunity to customise your own jars of delicious and creamy hazelnut spread with a personalised message for yourself, or perhaps for that special someone.

Get one today

There are a few ways you can go about this – first, you can be on the lookout for Kombi vans stationed at various shopping malls to purchase the limited edition customised Nutella jars from them. Which malls, you ask? Well, you can head over to IOI Mall from 17 to 19 February, One Utama from 24 to 26 February, and Sunway Pyramid from 1 to 5 March. A bottle is around RM16, label is free.

If you have a busy schedule and are worried that you might miss it, fret not because you can also generate customised labels for the Nutella jar online ( buy your jar at supermarket, print and mount the label yourself) and at selected supermarkets . You can also use this opportunity to come up with motivational messages for yourself. This way, whenever you see the jar with your message of choice on it, you’ll feel inspired!

Join a contest and get one for your someone special!

In fact, why not do this for someone you love and care about? If you want to do things a little differently and stand a chance to make this a truly special moment for someone important, #Nutellamessenger is at your service! To kick things up a notch and stay true to what this campaign means – spreading positivity and joy to others, Nutella is hosting a contest on this blog!

Up to it? The mechanics are simple – all you need to do is share an inspiring story (in no more than 300 words) of someone you care about and you’ll already be in the running! Since this is the digital age, a captioned photo or video (no longer than 30 seconds) capturing inspiring moments with loved ones are also accepted. You will also need to state what message (within 12 characters) should be featured on the jar, and to whom the jar would be dedicated to in your entry on this page.

For example, you can upload a picture of your father being woken up to a homemade Nutella sandwich and say that the message you want on the jar is ‘love u dad!’. You will also need to remember to include these hashtags: #Nutellamessenger and #NutellaSEA in your entry.

The Prize

A customised jar of yummy Nutella with the dedicated message printed on it. There will be 5 lucky winners and the best entry among the 5 winners will also be given an added surprise as the personalised jar of deliciousness will be hand-delivered in a fun and unconventional way to your loved one. They will be surprised with a special performance and have their message serenaded to them by talented local buskers!

Contest Disclaimers

Naturally, terms and conditions do apply, so here they are:

  1.  Contest is sponsored by Nutella SEA
  2. The contest will run from 20 February 2017 to 20 March 2017. Submissions after 20 March, 11.59 p.m., will not be accepted.
  3. Participants must be aged 18 and above.
  4. Winners chosen will be at the sole discretion of us unless stated otherwise
  5. Participants of the contest must be Malaysian citizens or permanent residents of Malaysia
  6. Prizes will only be delivered within West Malaysia
  7. The prize is non-transferable. No substitution or cash equivalent of prizes is permitted.
  8. Nutella SEA reserves the right to terminate, suspend or amend the contest, without prior notice.
  9. By participating, each entrant grants Nutella SEA permission to use his/her name, submission details, and comments for publicity purposes.
  10. Messages for winners cannot include the following:
    • Maximum message length is 12 characters inclusive of spaces
    • No endearments are allowed
    • No vulgarities will be accepted
    • Capital letters will not be accepted
    • Numbers will not be accepted
    • Symbols allowed are ‘ ! ? #
    • Only English and Manglish messages are allowed
    • Nutella SEA has the right to reject name or words that are deemed offensive and unacceptable
    • Words or Name related to Religion are not allowed

For more information about the campaign and activities, visit Nutella’s facebook page.

About Nutella

Nutella® was created in 1964 thanks to Mr Michele Ferrero; it was based on the recipe for Giandujot developed in 1946 by his father, Pietro Ferrero – confectioner and founder of Ferrero – in Italy’s Piedmont area. Nutella is made with a meticulous selection of high-quality ingredients and an exacting, artisan-inspired production, which results in the unique hazelnut spread that millions of people around the world love. Nowadays, the popular hazelnut spread with cocoa is available in around 160 countries.

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Giveaway for January 2017 Top Commenter

For the very top one, I am giving away a tote bag with artwork made by my 8 years old niece, Eryna. Up to it?

Here’s what it takes to win the special tote bag:

  • Comment away from now until 31 January, 2017. It means your name have to appear top on my January 2017 Top Ones widget (right sidebar). Refresh to see your name and comments count.
  • Please come often and check the count. You need to put in more comments if you are overtaken by other commenters.
  • If you are a first-timer, your comment is under moderation. Please allow some time for me to approve.
  • Opens to anyone interested.
  • Closing date/time:31 January 2017, 11.59pm.
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