Hello, and welcome to the Editing and Submitting Your Picture Books online course.

I love writing picture books and have quite a few under my belt now – 27 at last count! The picture book genre hands-down attracts the most interest from new and emerging authors. At writers’ festivals where publishers conduct face-to-face assessment meetings, it’s also the genre that attracts the most submissions. With writing competitions, it’s always the category that attracts the most entries. And with commercial publishers, it’s always the submissions pile that attracts the most manuscripts.

It seems that everyone loves pictures books and everyone wants to write them. That said, it does take some special skills and the nailing of certain techniques to get them ‘just right’. This is where the fun starts!

Drafting a story, to my mind, is the easiest part of the writing process. Many people see editing as a separate part of the creation process, but really, editing is an integral part of writing. A HUGE part of it.

A story (not just a picture book story, but any story) isn’t finished until it’s been edited. Many times over. Rigorously. Until then, that story can only ever be at ‘draft’ stage and it’s certainly not ready to submit to publishers.

Because this genre, and the children’s writing industry as a whole, is so highly competitive, it’s critical that an author only ever sends their best work to a publisher. You only get one chance to impress them, after all.

You want to stand out for the right reasons. For the fact that your story is imbibed with emotion, fascinating characters, a strong plot, an unforeseen twist, enticing language – the list goes on. You certainly don’t want to stand out for the wrong reasons: poor spelling or grammar, imperfect rhyme, a lack of adherence to formatting requirements, etc.

Until you sit down at your desk and tackle the editing of your story head-on, you’ll never truly progress or grow as an author. It is a steep yet enjoyable learning curve that you’re about to step onto, so I do hope you’re ready!

Taking on this course means that you’re prepared to roll your sleeves up and to occasionally ‘slash and burn’ things that aren’t working. Sometimes this means you will have to ‘kill your darlings’ and scrap lines or characters that you’ve fallen in love with. Sometimes your head will hurt or maybe your brain won’t work or you’ll feel all out of ideas and inspiration. That’s completely okay. It will be time to take a break, make a cup of tea, climb a mountain, or perhaps brainstorm new ideas or new directions. As long as you circle back and keep returning to the page, it will all be okay! Not every answer to every creative question will immediately jump out at you.

It takes time to write and edit a story.

The submissions process also takes time.

Anyone who tells you that they wrote a picture book in an afternoon – and it was brilliant! – and they sent it off the same day to a publisher – because they were so excited about how brilliant it was! – shouldn’t expect to achieve success. All they’ve done is draft a story that is most likely not fully fleshed-out and eventually (unless they’re one of those extremely rare magical writing geniuses) they will have their under-developed story rejected.

Picture books take many more hours than one single afternoon to write – yes, even if they are only 300 – 500 words long.

The best way to avoid rejection is to write the absolute best story that you can. That takes time and effort and editing. And as you progress, you will develop a picture book author’s intuition too.

So! Here we go.

This course is broken into four modules, each module should take about 45 minutes to complete. I’ve included lots of useful information in here – that can take years to learn if you don’t enrol in a course like this – and loads of practical exercises. Exercises that really work, that get you thinking, and that I use myself in the editing of my own picture book stories and guidelines I use when mentoring and reviewing other authors’ work.

Overall, it will take around three to four hours to complete this course, however it can be also accomplished in stages, at your convenience. There are some suggested reading lists, research activities, and editing activities that can be done when you’re ready and which may take extra time to complete. You will need a writing pad or notebook and pen, or a laptop. It can also be a good idea to use a timer for your writing exercises.

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