Seven Picture Books in Seven Days

Writing seven picture books in seven days is a lot harder than it seems. I’ve just finished NaPiBoWriWee where that’s exactly what I had to do.

Finding Ideas

On some days the ideas came easily. One morning I woke up with an idea already formed in my mind. Other days inspiration didn’t come quite so easily. In fact, it got to seven o’clock one night and I was fretting that I wouldn’t find an idea at all. Some of my ideas were sparked by the world around me (a picture book set on a farm) or a memory (the theme song to Postman Pat reminded me of a funny line my siblings and I used to sing when we were younger and it formed into a picture book idea). Some of my ideas came out of thin air (such as the one I wrote about a pirate) or from staring out the window blankly (what if there were fairies in the garden?) Asking my son for ideas didn’t work out very well as all he wanted to do was count (hence one of my picture books ended up being a counting book), though he came up with some good character names for one of my picture books.


For the most part I waited for my children to go to bed before I sat down to work on my picture book for the day. On a couple of days my son was my sounding board while my daughter napped. The fact we went on holidays with two days of NaPiBoWriWee to go left me worried I wouldn’t get those last two picture books for the week written. As it turns out our very long car trip gave me a lot of time to think and work out a story in my head (which I typed up on my laptop the first chance I got) and my final idea was inspired by the trip itself.

The Writing of a Picture Book is a Complex Exercise.

Although picture books appear simple on the surface, it is their simplicity that makes them complex to write. Writing picture books is a lesson in using concise language. Word choice is especially difficult as it mustn’t be too flowery or difficult for a child to comprehend, yet an odd word every now and then that encourages the child to explore language beyond their own vocabulary enriches the text. Picture books tend to have a rhythm and flow, whether a rhyming text or straight prose. It must sound right when read aloud.

Far From Finished.

The picture books I wrote for NaPiBoWriWee are no where near finished, they are simply rough drafts. Two of the picture books I wrote will probably never be explored further as I just don’t feel I like them enough or that they have enough potential. Some of my other ideas I really love and I will definitely be revising and reworking them until they’re polished. (My picture book critique group can expect to see some of them in the near future!)

Did you do NaPiBoWriWee this year? How did you go? Was it easier or harder than you anticipated? If you didn’t do it, is it something you would consider doing in the future?

4 thoughts on “Seven Picture Books in Seven Days”

  1. Congrats, Jo! That’s quite an accomplishment.

    …my final idea was inspired by the trip itself.

    Everywhere I go and everyone I see and hear goes into the old memory banks for later use in one of my books or short stories. I don’t do it consciously. It just kinda happens automatically. 😉

    Although picture books appear simple on the surface, it is their simplicity that makes them complex to write. Writing picture books is a lesson in using concise language.

    I’ll bet that is tough. I’ve tried writing some ridiculously short stories. It’s fun, but it’s a challenge.

    Best wishes, Jo. Keep up the good work!


  2. Thanks Robert! Some days I wasn’t sure if I was going to get it done!

    Inspiration can be found everywhere. I store away tidbits for future stories too, sometimes consciously and sometimes not. One of the things I love about NaPiBoWriWee is the way it makes me stop and absorb the world around me to find inspiration.

    Writing picture books can definitely be tough, but a great challenge. It really makes me think about the way I use words. I took part in a drabble competition on a forum once where the stories for each round had to be under 500 words. That was a great challenge too.

    Thanks for your kind words!


  3. I didn’t do NaPiBoWriWee, but I relate to the travelling picture book. Two years ago we drove across the Nullarbor to get to Perth. I wrote almost all of one of my pbs in my head along the way. I did most of the driving and was terrified I’d forget whole sentences before we stopped for a scribble break, so I kept reciting it over and over!


  4. I was the same. I was driving and kept reciting it over and over in my head so I wouldn’t forget before I could write it down. It was well thought out by the time I wrote it down though, which was a plus.


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