Help For Your Picture-Book-Writing Woes

Writing Picture Books: What Works and What Doesn’tSometimes you get a great idea for a story, you write it with a great sense of ‘This one is going to be great!’ But when you read it over (or get feedback from your trusted writing group), you discover it’s definitely not as good as you were sure it was going to be. (It might even be terrible.) Fear not!

From Chapter 4 of Writing Picture Books: What Works & What Doesn’t:

“I thought I had a good idea for a story, but what I’ve written seems to be missing something. What have I done wrong?”

If your story is feeling flat, maybe you don’t have a character with a problem, or a problem readers can relate to. Maybe there’s not enough at stake if the problem isn’t resolved. If solving the problem doesn’t matter very much to the character, it won’t matter very much to the reader either. Or maybe you don’t have enough standing in the way of your character solving the problem. If the problem is too easy to solve, then it’s not really a problem, and again, who cares?

A reader needs to feel tension in the story – will this character I’ve been made to care about overcome all these obstacles and solve his/her problem? Will Harry, the dirty dog, be able to convince his owners who he is, after he’s run away and come back home unrecognizable? Will anyone be able to make Mortimer go to sleep? Will Ira take his teddy bear when he goes to sleep over at Reggie’s house, and will Reggie laugh if he does? Will Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne be able to dig the cellar for the new town hall in just one day, in spite of everyone being sure they’re too old-fashioned? Will Bird ever get over feeling grumpy?

The suspense in a picture book doesn’t have to be of the nail-biting, cliff-hanger kind, but there should, at least, be a question that the reader is anxious to have answered before the book comes to its end.

Other chapters deal with such matters as animals in picture books, humour, dealing with publishers, illustrations, and more. Order the book now for more help making yours a picture book text that works.

The PDF file will be sent to you by e-mail within 24 hours (holidays and weekends excepted).

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Kathy Stinson is the author of the classic Red Is Best and the award-winning The Man with the Violin. Her wide range of titles includes picture books, non-fiction, young adult fiction, historical fiction, horror, biography, series books, and short stories. She has met with her readers in every province and territory of Canada, in the United States, Britain, Liberia, and Korea. She lives in a small town in Ontario.

Kathy Stinson


  1. Janet Barclay on August 14, 2013 at 12:54 am

    I've had so many people tell me they want to write a picture book. I'm so glad they can now access your experience through this e-book!

  2. Kathy Stinson on August 14, 2013 at 11:18 am

    I'm glad they can too, Janet. And I'm sure you'll do what you can to help ensure they know about it. 🙂

  3. Katherine Adlam on December 14, 2023 at 4:01 pm

    Kathy, your PB RED IS BEST, was a hit from the first read, at our house.

    • Kathy on December 15, 2023 at 10:27 am

      Lovely to know, Katherine. Thank you. I hope you find Writing Picture Books: What Works and What Doesn’t a hopeful resource.

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