Writing for children is tricky and a lot of fun. You get to put yourself in the mind of a child, where everything is new and cool, and maybe even a little scary.
We’re working on our third book, and it turned out to be a little on the tricky side this time around.
My first and second pass through the manuscript wrapped up at around 1800 words, which is extremely long for the age group we’re targeting right now – 3-5 years. The story doesn’t feel like one we’d want to upgrade for older kids, so I had to lower the word count. Rules are meant to be broken, and I’m sure there are 1800 word books out there for the young ones, but we want to stick to the format we’ve been using.
So I needed to cut about 40% of the words without losing story points or the feeling we’re trying to create. It wasn’t easy, until I remembered Anita!
Not that I could ever really forget Anita. We talk every day when our time-zones line up and we’re both awake.
While editing the story and deciding what could go, I realized I was painting pictures in prose that Anita would take care of in the illustration phase.
This actually came up a bit in The New Cat at the very end of the story. We ended that one with a picture, rather than explicitly stating the point. Hopefully you’ve read The New Cat (and loved and reviewed it <- shameless plug).
While editing book one of G&P (stay tuned to find out who G&P are) I’ve learned that writing illustrated children’s books is more like penning a script than a novel. It’s a visual medium, with Anita playing the role of director.
If I keep that in mind in the future, the process should move a lot faster for me and require less rewriting. But who knows? I may discover that I work better getting everything out in words and then cutting out the visual pieces and setting them aside as hints for Anita that she’s free to include or update.
Every bit of real estate counts on these pages. There’s the economy of words (not too many, not too few), but I’ve also realized that there is economy of letters. A smaller word takes up less space (and is more likely to be understood by the Tadpoles). We have to balance using the right words for the age of the target audience, without talking down to them, while keeping the story fun and engaging, and making everything fit.
It’s a balance we think we’ve found with G&P, and we hope you’ll agree when it comes out in a few months.Illustrations tell part of the story in a children's book - leave room for the illustrator. Click To Tweet
Finally, what’s next at FrogBurps?
Anita is going to start illustrating G&P and you’ll see some early art for that soon.
I’m going to start book two of G&P, and then probably book three right away (our first series!).
We’ve got another book waiting for a second draft (hope you like brown bears).
Then, I’ll be writing a longer, heavier series with very few illustrations. They will be our first chapter books for the older kids – most likely in the the 7-12 range.
One final point – I think I just named our young readers. Tadpoles!
Patrick (and Anita)