One of the best pieces of writing advice I’ve ever received came from author Candace Fleming. This advice transformed my picture book process and made my writing much stronger. What was it? Look at your book as a series of scenes.
When I’ve discussed this light-bulb moment with illustrator friends, they look perplexed. They naturally see their stories as a series of scenes—perfectly illustrated in full color, of course—and assume everyone else does too. Sadly, my author brain doesn’t work that way.
So what is a scene? Most of us are familiar with the idea of a movie scene, or a scene in a play. But if you’re not an illustrator, you may have never considered scenes in a picture book. Here are a few basics.
To determine if your scenes need work, try paginating your manuscript or making a dummy. This will help you more clearly assess them. If you have trouble figuring out where to add page breaks, your scenes may need work. Another trick is to make a list of the scenes in your story. Summarize each with a sentence. Can you boil your story down to 12-14 sentences?
Once you get the hang of seeing in scenes, you’ll look at your picture book in a whole new light. Give it a try!
Lisa Amstutz is the author of 100+ children’s books. For more about her books, mentorships, and critique services, see www.LisaAmstutz.com.
4/4/2019 07:50:00 am
Oh my gosh, this is so perfect, Lisa. Paginating has become my new best friend...now to look at each scene. Thank you!!!
4/6/2019 08:02:34 am
Great advice! Thanks!
4/7/2019 08:18:16 am
What a great tip. Thanks for sharing, Lisa!
4/19/2019 08:04:24 am
It's such a great way to help you "see" your story and visualize it as you write -- great tips!
10/20/2022 09:18:40 am
10/20/2022 09:27:50 am
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