Tips for Writing Picture Books

Think in pictures

  • In picture books it is most important to visually about what is happening in each scene.
  • If your character isn’t doing anything (thinking perhaps) what is the illustrator going to draw?
  • In a 32 page picture book, only 24 pages are for the story (other ones are for title page etc). There isn’t really a fixed rule as to how many scenes you can write – a page can have multiple scenes

How long should a picture book be?

  • A picture book should be 0-1000 words; shorter is more preferred at the moment, aiming for 500 words would be a good idea.

Story structure

  • Story is defined as a character with a conflict, who resolves the conflict (on his or her own) and in so doing changes or grows in some way and learns a lesson – but the lesson must be subtle and not told in a didactic way.
  • Character – avoid passive hero/heroine. They must have a problem that they themselves resolve.
  • Conflict – a story needs a problem that leads to tension or action.
  • Wants – conflict is propelled by what the character wants.


Animals or people?

  • Often picture books are written with animals as characters because it gives more creative freedom – people don’t like stories of young children wandering around but for an animal this would be OK.