I have a wonderful efriend–Kath Unsworth–who writes and draws children’s books. She blogs at Miniscule Moments, her take on life and writing, with lots of her original drawings. I had the honor of being a beta reader on one of her children’s books and was blown away. The voice is excellent, the plot perfect for youngers, but what really made the book was the pictures. They were fresh, original, and communicated the written word perfectly.
Which is why I asked Kath to write a post in my Genre series on tips for writing picture books. You’re going to enjoy this article:
I want to thank Jacqui for inviting me over. I am working on my first picture book and it has been an amazing journey of learning. You are never to old to learn. I should know, I am turning fifty this year. I have never been more happy, its the passion of creating that keeps me on the picture book path. Whilst I cannot share original illustrations and a manuscript of the story. I will share an illustration draft idea and the things I have learnt thus far.
Ten Tips for writing and Illustrating a picture book.
- Great stories come from real life, even in picture books there are elements of real life. I imagine new stories all the time and usually they come from something that happened on the farm. I write them in an ideas journal. I have a story coming up after this one about a praying Mantis who lives on a quad bike (true tale).
- Write your manuscript first. Begin with the story, the illustrations come later, after you know what images you actually need.
- Share your manuscript to make it sing. Choose gifted beta readers. Jacqui was one of mine for the manuscript Sugar and Spice. Be brave and hand it to someone you know will be honest and helpful.
- Borrow five picture books a week from the library to see how others create and also which layouts you prefer. I have a collection of my favourite picture books, the ones that inspire me and delight the inner child in me.
- Tell it to the world. The best way to be accountable, I am amazed at the support I receive through my blog and monthly newsletters.
- Find reference images (photographs that inspire you to draw your characters.) I am lucky that my characters are already on the farm where I live. I take lots of photos and when I need obscure images (dancing cat holding a cupie doll) I google or surf pinterest for inspiration.
- Draw, paint and create and then do it over and over AGAIN. This is the biggest challenge for me, understanding I am not done with the first picture. I need to refine each illustration until they shine.
- Ask a Child The best critics in the world if you are writing a picture book are children. They don’t lie and will give you an honest opinion straight up.
- Illustrate the cover last you will be an expert by then on your characters.
- Read many books on how to write a picture book, my favourite book so far is Child Writes by Emma Mactaggart. A step-by-step guide to writing and illustrating a children’s picture book. http://wp.me/p2ZjFY-uT
Most of all because I have not started the journey of searching for a publisher, NEVER GIVE UP.
Grab Those Pencils
My process for illustrating you can see below, I keep it pretty simple. All work is freehand, that’s just me. Maybe one day I will get back into using design programs again but for this book I thought it needed that natural edge.
I Pencil it in, then use a fine point illustrator pen.
Grab my Derwent coloursoft pencils and colour like crazy. Remember to leave white areas for highlights and think of your image as blocks of colour rather than looking at the whole picture.
Lastly touch up with illustrator pen I add a scratchy edge to my characters in this book but you could add a fine line to bring it all together.
Most of all enjoy the process.
Kath Unsworth lives in a beautiful part of the far south coast of Australia with her husband and two children. Her dream is to create, illustrate and write happy, hopeful stories for children. Kath is working on Sugar and Spice. A story about an orange calf and a cute black kitten. They meet at a fair and set about trying to win a ribbon in the big arena, meeting some wonderful animals along the way.
More on genre writing: