Archive for May, 2013
What’s the most important part of a picture book?
The pictures! Definitely the pictures, rather than the words…
I’m a writer, so I’m a big fan of words. But I know the draft of a picture book is going well when I can slice words out because the pictures are telling the story so well.
That’s what I’ve been doing this week. I’ve spent the last couple of days working on my next Picture Kelpies picture book. It’s called The Magic Word, and this week for the first time I saw all Claire Keay’s draft illustrations, which meant I could work on the final edit of the text.
But I’ve not been working directly with Claire. I’d love to meet her sometime and chat to her about the story and the characters, but that’s not how picture books usually work. Writers and illustrators rarely sit down together to plan their books or inspire each other. The editor and the designer at the publishers talk to the writer and the illustrator separately, then make the pictures and words work together on the page.
So I’ve been working with my lovely editor Eleanor. We’ve looked at all Claire’s incredible, magical, cheerful pictures, then we’ve looked at the text we agreed months ago (the text which Claire has been working with) and finally we said, ‘Well, we can take that word out, or that phrase out, or that whole sentence out.’ And why are we slicing words out at this late stage? Because the pictures make the story so clear that we don’t need the words any more.
Picture books really only need words to explain the story that the reader can’t see in the pictures, like what people are saying and sometimes what they are thinking, and perhaps what order things happen. Though it’s also good to have words which sound lovely or funny or exciting read out loud.
But this week, we’ve been able to take out lots of words, and that’s all due to Claire’s wonderful pictures and Helena the designer’s clever layout, which lets the story dance along without a lot of help from me.
So what’s the writer for, if the pictures are the important bit? Well, the writer comes up with the story. And sometimes taking out exactly the right words requires just as much thought and effort as writing those words in the first place.
So I’m really looking forward to seeing the final version of The Magic Word in the autumn, with (fewer) words and (coloured in) pictures together.
Here’s a wee taster:
The Magic Word cover