If you haven't read BOY + BOT yet, you really should. Its a perfect example of simplicity in language, weighing in at around 240 words. It is a true testament to the need for a flawless marriage between words and art.
Ame is also one of the funniest, wackiest and most generous people I know. She quickly agreed to come share her journey with us...as well as provide a fabulous Give-Away!
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Ame, take it away!
You know when the team captains go back-and-forth choosing players, until there’s just one smallish person left that nobody wants?
I don’t mean dodge ball. (I’m halfway decent at dodge ball, unless I get a story idea in the middle of a game.)
I’m talking about Pictionary.
I’m The Worst Pictionary Player on the Planet. (Title pending. The Guinness folks are coming tomorrow.)
Why am I so bad at this game?
I can’t draw.
I like to draw. But it’s nigh impossible for me to draw something that resembles what I actually set out to draw.
THE KID (peering over my shoulder): “Is that a bumblebee?”
ME: “Close. T-Rex.”
THE KID (pats my head): “Good try, Mom.”
I’ll give you another example—with a picture I drew. (Please don your safety goggles now.)
In the early stages of BOY + BOT, my lovely Knopf editor, Michele Burke, approached me with a possible idea for the endpapers of our book.
Michele asked me to compose a list of robotic terms for Bot that could also (humorously) apply to Boy.
“Sure!” I said. “Words? No problem!”
Then she added, “And draw a little diagram.”
But I did. And I thought I’d be extra-cool by drawing it on the computer.
Remember: you’ve been warned.
However, my imperfect illustration perfectly illustrates one of my favorite writing mottos:
“THANK GOODNESS FOR ILLUSTRATORS!”(I’m going to get this as a stitched sampler for my house. Or possibly, a tattoo.)
So if you’re Illustrating Challenged like me, how can we show our appreciation for the folks—THANK YOU, DAN!—who’re responsible for bringing our characters to loveable (and recognizable) life?
(Yells from mountaintop.) “Write text that will be FUN TO ILLUSTRATE-ATE-ate…!”
Here are some of my favorite tricks:
· Create emotional characters.
· Add action.
· Use scene changes.
And the Really, REALLY Important One:
· Write short.
Wow. I could hear you groan from here.
I know writing short is tough! But wait! I have a Secret Tip for Cutting Your Word Count! Ready?
Wear clothes with pockets.
It’s true! Pockets! Print out the latest draft of your picture book manuscript, fold it up, and put it in your pocket. Carry it around with you as you go about your day. (Try this, novelists! Ha ha ha! PB Power!)
Sorry. Genre pride. Back to the Secret Tip.
Then whenever you get a minute, take your manuscript out and cross out three words—just three little unneeded descriptive words!—before you put it away again.
Repeat as needed.
I don’t know why this method works, but it does! (Just don’t forget to remove your manuscript from your pocket before you do the wash. Speaking from experience here. See picture of recently washed and dried manuscript.)
Writing short goes for your art notes, too. They should contain only what is necessary to get your non-text idea across.
There was the monster! (Tiny, cute.)
There was the monster! (Tiny and cute, with big eyelashes, purple polka-dotted fur, itty bitty horns, and a piece of pink dryer lint stuck in his bellybutton.)
(Don’t know what this thing is, but I caught it eating manuscript remnants in my washing machine last week.)
Struggling with what goes in text and what goes in art notes? In addition to studying your weekly Mountain of Picture Books, here’s a little extra homework that always helps me:
Seriously! Watch cartoons, paying particular attention to what the narrator says, what the characters say, and what doesn’t need to be said because it’s shown. (And try not to rub it in to your kids. “Oh, you have math for your homework? I have cartoons!”)
I’m right there with you that it’s SO tempting to write long, descriptive text and art notes, because you can SEE the picture in your mind…
But so can your future illustrator. And that’s their job. Make it their fun, too, and the two of you will make a great book!
Gotta run, PB writers! (Must clean up the house for the Guinness people.)
Thanks for reading, and happy writing! —Ame
Ame Dyckman LOVES picture books. Sometimes she’ll even put them down long enough to write one of her own:
· BOY + BOT, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino (Knopf; 2012)
· TEA PARTY RULES, illustrated by K.G. Campbell (Viking; 2013)
· WOLFIE AND DOT (working title), illustrator TBD (Little, Brown; TBD)
Ame lives in New Jersey with her family, pets (including a demanding-but-adorable squirrel), and a picture book collection that’s taking over the house. Please say “Hi!” if you see Ame at a SCBWI event, book signing, or around town (usually, at the library or bookstore). Depending on the time and place, she’d love to chat, grab a coffee, even play a game—anything but Pictionary.