Today I’m thrilled to welcome talented and wonderful writerly friend, Tania McCartney to my blog. Tania is here to share some great tips on writing picture books.

Tania is an author of both children’s and adult’s books, and the founder of Kids Book Review. She has been writing professionally since her teens and has edited, viewed, reviewed or assessed countless children’s books and manuscripts. Four of her books were self-published (full self-creation) and she instructs both adults and children on writing, self-publishing and picture book construction.


1.      Write about something you know, love and are inspired by, but don’t be afraid to do something really ‘different’. Goodness knows the world needs ‘different’.

2.      Think about the age group your book is aimed at then use an open and honest voice that appeals to that group. Use words kids can relate to but don’t be afraid to include words they don’t yet know. Never underestimate the comprehension of children.

3.      Create an ending. So many manuscripts I see have no ‘wrap up’. Writing about a little girl who goes about her day and then goes to bed at night is not a story, it’s an account. Picture books either need a surprise ending, an emotive ending, a clever ending or some kind of resolve (that’s set up earlier in the story).

4.      Forget about morals. If you must slip them in, do it imperceptibly. Yes, even the smallest children will notice.

5.      Don’t use words to describe what pictures can show, and don’t use too many words. Unless it’s a high text picture book, many are spoiled by laborious text. Cull, cut, edit.

6.      Consider shunning old-fashioned formula and be sure to think outside the square. Fairies, trucks and superheroes have been done and done – ad infinitum. If you must use them, paint them in a different light.

7.      Think about imagery as you write and remember a picture book is generally 32 pages – around 26 to 28 of which contain your book’s text. Gear your story towards that structure so you can edit the word count and create impactful moments as each ‘page’ is turned.

8.      Avoid predictable, over-used adjectives and sentence structures. Don’t be afraid to use unusual language or sentence structure.

9.       Allow you story to ‘marinate’ awhile – at least a few weeks. You’ll be astounded how much you hone and improve it after a decent hiatus.

10.     Consider using humour. It’s always a winner with both kids and adults, and indeed, many books with high crossover appeal are centered in humour.


Tania is running a picture book writing competition at Kids’ Book Review. It’s a picture book award for an unpublished manuscript and it closes on 16th July 2012.


One overall winner will score $300, a manuscript appraisal and the winning manuscript will be viewed by Sue Whiting, Publishing Manager at Walker Books! There is no guarantee of publication, and normal Walker Books manuscript submission rules and timings apply. Copyright for the work is retained by the author.

Two runners-up will also be announced. They will win $100 each, and a short manuscript appraisal.

Winners will be announced on Monday 30 July 2012. Winners will be emailed shortly before the announcement on KBR.

The competition is open to Australian entrants only, over the age of 18.

Please refer to the KBR website for full details on how to submit – www.kids-bookreview.com.

6 thoughts on “TEN PICTURE BOOK WRITING TIPS + a Writing Competition

  1. OM Goodness, KBR comp was on my list of to dos today. How timely Dee and what a sensational sharing of tips from Tania. Thanks ladies – always a benefit to learn more and cement knowledge. Invaluable. Now back to the ms 😉

  2. Hello! I loved reading your tips-really good points, all of them. I live in the United States and was wondering if you knew of any picture book contests here? Worth a shot, anyway. I’m new to the idea and I’m having trouble finding ones that are generally open to the public. Thanks!

  3. Thanks, Graham,

    Unfortunately I don’t know of any PB competitions in the Unites States but you might be able to find out this information through the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. Here’s their website http://www.scbwi.org/ .

    Also you can join writer’s groups and pages on Facebook and you might be able to ask the question there.

    Good luck:)


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