Saturday, 5 October 2013

How To Pace A Picture Book

It doesn’t matter if you're writing a 70,000-word novel or a 600-word picture book you have to create a story with a good plot and that's well paced. Unlike a novel when writing a picture book you know how many pages you are working with as there are industry standards.The picture books I write normally adhere to the traditional 12 double-page spread formula. So when I start to work on a new story I take a piece of A4 paper and fold it to create 12 sections. To show you how I use this piece of paper to pace a story I'll describe how I wrote Captain and Nugget.

I knew the story was going to be about two dogs, Captain and Nugget. I had decided the theme was going to be about learning to share and I knew how this lesson was going to be learnt. So all I had to do was pace the scenes on my piece of paper.

On the first page I introduced one of the characters, being Captain. The next page I used to introduce both the second character, Nugget and the problem, Captain learning to share. I then skipped to the last page because I knew I wanted a happy ending with Captain realising that sharing has its benefits.

So by plotting the first two pages and the last I was left with nine. Having nine pages meant I was able to use the magic number three. Basically for an interesting story you can't have your character solve the problem on the first attempt, this would be boring. You shouldn't allow them solve the problem on the second go, you've not built up enough tension. Having them continue to fail would frustrate the reader so you need them succeed on the third. So I was able to split the nine pages into three sets of three, which allowed me to evenly pace the story.

I've used this method of pacing in many of my books and I'm sure I'll continue to use it, as it appears to work for me. In fact just this afternoon I grabbed my A4 note pad, created 12 sections and started to plot and pace out a new story.

When I'd finished this story I used it as part of an illustration course I was studying and at that time I also decided to turn it into an eBook ( - As I no longer had to stick to the rigid 12 double-page spreads I increased the pages to 23 and was still able to create a story I felt was well paced.


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