Christie HAIR CUTWhile I have never met Christie Wild, today’s Tuesday 12 x 12 author, in person, I am blessed indeed to “know” her very well. She is a huge part of my writing life and writing career and has been ever since she admitted me into the world’s greatest online critique group (not that I’m biased or anything) three years or so ago. We’ve learned from each other and with each other, and I can’t imagine putting anything out into the world without her seeing it first. She’s one of those rare individuals who provides the perfect blend of encouragement and constructive criticism. I can also say with authority that she is a very talented writer. We in our critique group are all so proud of her publishing contract, but not a one of us is surprised. So I’m thrilled you’ll be able to learn from her too in this post. Please welcome Christie!

Top 10 Story Elements for Picture Books

Since the 12×12 challenge is all about picture books, I thought I’d blog about craft. Because as fun as reading and writing picture books is, our manuscripts will never get published if they don’t prove we have a strong command of craft. There are a lot of how-to books out there that teach craft or how to write a picture book, but none can teach as well as the very picture books we love to read. But first, I’d like to share with you why I joined 12×12.

Last year, I joined 12×12 in 2012 to push me to write my next manuscript. And it was just the push I needed. I wrote two NEW ones in 2012, but revised six and submitted 16. So even though I didn’t get 12 new stories written in 2012, I still consider it a success.

At the time of this writing (the beginning of March), I haven’t written a single new manuscript this year, but I have revised one significantly and have submitted six different manuscripts to 16 different places. And guess what? ONE of them has been accepted for publication! I joined 12×12 in 2013 because I love our community support group, especially on Facebook, and because I really want the opportunity to submit to agents, as well as be a part of the forums. The road is so much easier to travel WITH other writers. My goal for this year is to double last year’s efforts and write four new stories.

With all the other things we have to think about as writers (get the monthly quota in, blogging, marketing, publishing, critiquing, and more), craft is sometimes skimmed, skipped, or jumped over; raced, flown, or swam past; or simply underestimated or forgotten. Craft is how we write. It’s the techniques we use to tell a great story. You may have a great story in your head, but if you fail to convey it to the reader in a way that will touch him, you have failed to tell a great story. Or you have failed the craft. C. S. Lewis sums it up nicely, “Child, to say the very thing you really mean, the whole of it, nothing more or less or other than what you really mean; that’s the whole art and joy of words.” I hope I can at least live up to that for the duration of this blog post.

The craft elements I’d like to share with you today are what I like to call the top 10 story elements for picture books.

  1. CHARACTER
  2. CONFLICT
  3. PLOT
  4. DIALOGUE
  5. THEME
  6. PACING
  7. WORD PLAY
  8. PATTERNS
  9. RHYME
  10. BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS

The first five elements are necessary for ALL fiction, not just picture books. The last five are more specific to picture books, but MG and YA definitely need great beginnings and endings too. The first three (character, conflict, and plot) are often intertwined and sometimes seem inseparable, especially conflict and plot. This is where the rising action and falling action are found. You can’t have a story without character, conflict, and plot. They are the basic building blocks of story. Dialogue draws you in. And theme makes it stick after you’re done.

The last five story elements turn a good story into a great story. They can make your writing shine. Word play isn’t just for fun books either; it can be for serious books too. The beauty of language usually comes long after the first several drafts. However, it’s certainly nice when the first draft includes a little bit of that beautiful language. The more you write, the more you practice your craft, the more your first drafts will have more and more of these top 10 elements for picture books. Keep on keepin’ on…

Christie Wright Wild has been writing ever since second grade. She has adored picture books long before she ever had children of her own, but failed to see her true calling until after she became a teacher. She is a member of SCBWI and is looking forward to attending her 3rd conference this fall. Her first picture book will be published in 2015. Her blog, WRITE WILD, has 25 mini writing lessons that deal with these top 10 story elements for picture books. On the 14th of every month, a new one will be added. Hop on over and explore!

Categories: 12 x 12, Authors, Children's Books, Guest Blogging, Picture Books, SCBWI, Social Media, Writing

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57 Comments

  1. Yea, Christie! I can’t wait to hear more about your contract! I’m so happy for you. I read your blog and so I have been able to benefit from your wisdom and helpful posts! I like your view of success because to me your list of accomplishments last year and so far this year sound like someone who is working hard at writing and doing all the right things!

    • Hi, Penny! I don’t know how helpful or wise my posts are for April because I’m participating in the A-Z blogging challenge and each post is a mystery passage from a particular children’s book. Can you guess?

  2. Michelle Levin

    Thank you thank you! What a useful blog post. I’m off to follow you on Twitter! :)

  3. Christie, I just went over to Twitter to make sure I was following you and saw there that your publication is Postcards from Alaska! Sounds wonderful!

  4. Congratulations Christie! Your time has come and I couldn’t be happier for you. And, I enjoyed reading you post as it was really packed with useful-helpful information! I love it when we can celebrate each other’s success!! Keeps the rest of us focused. :)

  5. Jenny Lee Sulpizio

    Great post, Christie! I love all of the info you provided. Awesome!

    • Thanks, Jenny! I hope you find the 25 mini-lessons (and more always on the way) helpful. I have something exciting coming down the line for next year. More info to be announced this December.

  6. Great post, Christie! I’m off to share it with the Children’s Book Hub Facebook Group — I know they’ll love it, too.

    BIG (make that HUGE) congratulations on your publishing contract!

  7. Great to see Christie here, I’m super stoked about your publishing contract. Yee haw!

  8. Christie, I love your blog and I am so happy to read about your contract. YAY!

    • Hi, Joanna! Thank you. I’m glad you love my blog. Sometimes I feel like it’s not much. I don’t always post as much as I’d like to, but it’s my little corner of the web. (And I’ll have another little corner later this year – with my web design business coming.)

  9. Yes, Your blog Christie has been a great source of information for me. Thank you. So happy for your publishing contract, so well deserved.

  10. Hey Christie, congrats and much success on your publishing contract! I too have learned a lot of great info here and on your website. Thank you.

  11. Great post! Congrats, Christie! Headed over to your blog …. :-)

  12. Yay, Christie! As part of that writing group, I must chime in with Julie about Christie’s talent and her ability to provide spot-on feedback on an MS.

  13. Congratulations on your contract! Heading over to read more on your blog, Christie!

  14. Thanks, Christie. Concise and right on target. And congratulations on your book contract!

  15. Christie that is incredible news about your PB acceptance. Congratulations. I agree that craft is critical. And it’s the hardest part to get right. For me, I find the more I write, the more I improve. And 12 x 12 has certainly inspired me to write more.

  16. I once won a critique from Christie. It was right on target. Yes, she is a great critiquer!!

    • Thanks, Gail! I remember Cleveland the Dirty Bird. How’s it coming along? The next winner of the Lucky Clover Picture Book Contest will be announced soon. The Spring Session is now open for new submissions, everyone!

  17. Thanks Christie for your post! Great summation…gotta check out your site.
    Congratulations on the book contract!

  18. Thanks for the encouragement, Christie. Awesome news on your publishing contract. Congratulations.

  19. Hi Christie! Great to see you here. You are the craft queen! I am so fortunate to have you as a fellow “critter.”

    • Oh, and congratulations on your upcoming book! I can’t wait to read it.. 2015 seems so far away, but I am sure it’ll sneak up on us.

    • You are too kind. The craft queen, huh? Wow! Thanks! (Sorry I haven’t been very active in the group, but I still enjoy being a part of all the talent there!) Going to school takes up all my spare time. I’ll finish in December, so maybe next year I’ll be able to do more.

  20. Thanks for the great article and congratulations on your contract!

  21. I feel as though I have taken a mini-course on children’s writing. Thanks, Christie . . .and congrats on your soon-to-be-published book! It’s good to be reminded that it’s not always about reaching the 12×12 goals each month, but what works for us as individual writers.

  22. Kathleen Cornell Berman

    Congratulations Christie! Thanks for the great post. Good luck!

  23. Wonderful post with tons of information. Congrats on your contract!

  24. Great post, Christie! Top ten story elements need to be hung on my bulletin board. Good luck with the new book!

  25. Congratulations, Christie, on your contract. Thanks for these great reminders and tips.

  26. Love love love to hear this, Christie! Congratulations…and thank you for a super 12×12 author highlight post. :)
    You are an immense inspiration to all of us…and the word is…WRITE…REVISE (OVER AND OVER AGAIN)…SUBMIT…………..SUCCESS!!!!

  27. Thanks, everyone! The last 3 comments I tried to leave didn’t work. Maybe this one will. Thank you all so much! Hope you continue to visit my blog from time to time. See you around 12×12 and the rest of the web.

  28. Thanks for your post, Christie. You are a subbing machine! Thanks for the inspiration.

  29. Melanie Ellsworth

    Christie – Congratulations on your book contract! And I’m going to hop on over to your blog for some writing lessons – thanks!

  30. Great post Christie! I have been eating up all of your story elements posts.
    p.s. Julie – I have a sleepy toddler on my lap who saw the Troop badge on the computer and lit up with “we have that on the iPad!”

  31. Yay for the contract, Christie! I’m so happy for you. Thanks for the great post on craft!

  32. Congratulations on your contract, Christie, and thanks for a great post.

  33. Love that quote Christie! And congratulations on your contract!!!

  34. Congratulations and thank you, Christie for this amazingly helpful post. I will keep the 10 story elements list close at hand as I craft my next PB. =)

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