Writers interested in picture book publication, sometimes hear this disheartening news: This story doesn’t read like a picture book. Why not? Well, there could be a variety of reasons, but today, I’m focusing on structure.
A picture book story must fit into the parameters of the picture book format. Generally, this format is 32 pages. There isn’t one way to tell a story within this format, but there are a few structures that work well and are repeated time after time. It’s helpful to familiarize yourself with some common picture book story structures and keep them in mind when you begin a new story of your own.
You can find some great information about picture book structure by clicking here, here, and here. You can also read books like, How to Write a Children’s Picture Book, Vol. 1: Structure by Eve Heidi Bine-Stock, The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books by Linda Ashman, or some of the other helpful books about picture book writing.
When you’re familiar with some of the common structures used to tell picture book stories, put your knowledge to the test. While you read the stack of books you’ve checked out from the library, get out your notepad and write about what you’re reading. How did the author structure their story? Does it match one of the structures you’re familiar with? How does the structure play out over the 32 pages? Note the pacing, page turns, word count, sentence length, and how the illustrations work together with the text.
By studying picture book structure, you’ll gain more knowledge of the form, your writing will improve, and hopefully, your stories will become picture book perfect.