By Vivian Kirkfield
Everyone has their own way of doing things, right? Like milk and cookies. Some people dunk their cookies in the milk. And others like to keep their cookies dry and crunchy.
Writing picture books is a bit like that. Some people have a strict routine. Others write when the muse calls. Some start with an outline. Others just write. You know…plotters or pantsers.
When I first started writing picture books in 2012, I had no idea what that meant. I figured out plotters pretty quickly…people who plot…who plan the story they are going to write before they start writing. And then I looked up pantsers and discovered they are people who don’t plan…they write by the seat of their pants, so to speak. And their story unfolds as they go along.
I guess I am a combination of both. I’m more of a plotter when I am writing nonfiction picture book stories because there is so much research and the research itself usually leads me to exactly what the story will be about. When I write fiction pbs, there is a lot more leeway. I can add fictitious events. Change the setting. Or get rid of the main character and substitute someone else which is definitely not something that can be done when you are writing about a real person. 😊
But since I write quite a lot of nonfiction picture book biographies, I thought I’d share a bird’s eye view of the process I use.
And of course, a discussion about story ideas would not be complete without mentioning Tara Lazar’s Storystorm. This month-long kidlit challenge takes place in January and has been helping writers for many years. I’ve participated since 2012…and I treasure each year’s notebook that is filled with story ideas. Many of those ideas became picture book drafts and some turned into polished manuscripts. And now, amazingly, several will be real live books. Pippa’s Passover Plate (Holiday House, Feb 12, 2019) and Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book (Pomegranate, March 1, 2019)
It's 1955. Marilyn Monroe hopes to prove herself a great actress. Jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald hopes to perform at Hollywood's top club. Both women discover those goals are possible, when friends stand beside you and, when necessary, make their voices heard.
So, there you have it. The seven steps I take as I write each one of my manuscripts. And just like a good chef adds something special to her signature dish, I add a large dollop of passion, patience, and perseverance…and I think that has made all the difference.
Vivian Kirkfield is a reader forever and a writer for children. A former NYC kindergarten teacher, Vivian loves bringing history alive for young readers. Repped by the incredible Essie White, encouraged by an insane number of critique partners, and loved for the past 50 years by the same man, she writes every day ,dances every night, and smiles all the time. You can find her at her Picture Books Help Kids Soar website: www.viviankirkfield.com or connect with her on Twiiter @viviankirkfield or on Facebook. Vivian has three picture books debuting in 2019: