Monday, August 28, 2017

Preparation is Key -- in Painting and Picture Books

Photo © Pixabay
This morning, I optimistically set out to finish painting our small half-bathroom, which measures around 12
square feet. However, due to a complete lack of preparation, after an hour of fruitless labor, my bathroom still needs to be painted.

While I was bashing the paint roller encrusted with paint on the picnic table outside to try and dislodge the handle, it occurred to me that I displayed a similar lack of preparation while diving into writing my first picture book.

I had read plenty of picture books, so I thought I was prepared. I have also looked at plenty of painted walls, but that doesn't mean I have any clue how to get to the finished product. Like many authors, I considered a 500-word project to be an easy challenge.

As I've learned, a smaller project doesn't always mean it's easy. My tiny bathroom needs the same amount of work to prepare for painting as my larger kitchen. I still have to prime the walls, tape the edges and have the proper tools to finish the job.

Unfortunately, I can't just throw paint at he walls and hope it sticks into a pleasing pattern. With my first picture book, I wrote a rhyming story about a mischievous toddler. I didn't know anything about meter, but that didn't stop me.

When I attended my first SCBWI conference, I naively thought publishers and agents would promptly sign my book. No one was interested, but I did learn about the 12x12 Challenge, an online writing program for aspiring picture book writers.

Through 12x12, I learned about the basics of rhyme and meter. I'm still learning about the craft of writing for children, and trying to create the perfect story arc. The program helps keep me accountable, although I have not quite met the goal of writing 12 manuscripts in 12 months.

I don't mean to discourage anyone from jumping in and writing their first draft, or attempting to paint their walls. However, it may be worth your time to learn the basics of the craft first. Thankfully, a slapdash wall can be painted over -- and a sloppy manuscript can be revised.

Nina Snyder is the author of "ABCs of Balls," a children's picture book that makes learning the alphabet fun for toddlers. Follow her on Twitter @nsnyder_writer.