Monday, December 7, 2009

The manuscript that came to dinner

If you're interested in writing or selling picture books, check out the terrific post by Michael Stearns of Upstart Crow Literary. His description of what makes a successful picture book is right on target, though his assessment of why so many agents refuse to handle picture books is rather discouraging. Of what makes a picture book work, he says:
It is about grace and the right words in the right place—much more akin to poetry than mere storytelling. The picture books I love are “language driven”—that is, are more about sound and rhythm and call-and-response than about, say, the devices of regular fiction—those things familiar from novels, such as extended scene and dialogue exchange and long descriptive passages. Picture book writing must be woefully dependent on the illustrations, else the manuscript is trying to do far too much, is the bore at the table who won’t let anyone else speak, won’t let the conversation come to life, and flattens the spirit of the evening.
I'm going to use that image of a manuscript that tries too hard as "the bore at the table" to keep myself in check when I'm writing. Nobody wants their writing to sound like Monty Woolley.