Back in the olden days, when I was a lowly skivvy - I mean editorial assistant - at Random House, I decided that writing picture books was surely the easiest way to make money on earth. All you had to do was bash out a few words - a few hundred, tops! - and then an artist would do all the hard work. Best of all, you'd get the same sort of advance as someone writing thousands of words worth of fiction. What was not to love?
Only... over the years I've realised it's actually not that easy. In fact, I've found writing picture books to be tantalisingly difficult - the Holy Grail of children's books. Sure I've written lots of TV tie-in picture books (that's different) but only ever had one proper picture book published (here it is) and countless rejections for my efforts.
I haven't tried writing one for a while but am working on a new one right now, which I feel quite excited about. It has come back to me twice from my agent already with advice to cut, cut, and cut some more, and to think visually rather than as a fiction writer, leaving room for the illustrations to tell the story just as much as (if not more than) the pictures. BUT the idea is good, she says, so I need to keep trying. It is a delicate art, I have come to realise, shaving a line here, giving the artist space there, making every single word count - rather like painting in miniature. I am grafting on it every bit as much as a longer children's story, pruning, polishing and perfecting.
It started off at about 2,000 words (which is ridiculously long for a picture book) and is now about 600. I feel like I am nearly there... fingers crossed!
A Country Escape by Katie Fforde
5 hours ago