Story writing Competition tips

Today I’m thrilled to welcome talented and wonderful writerly friend, Tania McCartney to my blog. Tania is here to share some great tips on writing picture books.

Tania is an author of both children’s and adult’s books, and the founder of Kids Book Review. She has been writing professionally since her teens and has edited, viewed, reviewed or assessed countless children’s books and manuscripts. Four of her books were self-published (full self-creation) and she instructs both adults and children on writing, self-publishing and picture book construction.


1. Write about something you know, love and are inspired by, but don’t be afraid to do something really ‘different’. Goodness knows the world needs ‘different’.

2. Think about the age group your book is aimed at then use an open and honest voice that appeals to that group. Use words kids can relate to but don’t be afraid to include words they don’t yet know. Never underestimate the comprehension of children.

3. Create an ending. So many manuscripts I see have no ‘wrap up’. Writing about a little girl who goes about her day and then goes to bed at night is not a story, it’s an account. Picture books either need a surprise ending, an emotive ending, a clever ending or some kind of resolve (that’s set up earlier in the story).

4. Forget about morals. If you must slip them in, do it imperceptibly. Yes, even the smallest children will notice.

5. Don’t use words to describe what pictures can show, and don’t use too many words. Unless it’s a high text picture book, many are spoiled by laborious text. Cull, cut, edit.

6. Consider shunning old-fashioned formula and be sure to think outside the square. Fairies, trucks and superheroes have been done and done – ad infinitum. If you must use them, paint them in a different light.

7. Think about imagery as you write and remember a picture book is generally 32 pages – around 26 to 28 of which contain your book’s text. Gear your story towards that structure so you can edit the word count and create impactful moments as each ‘page’ is turned.

8. Avoid predictable, over-used adjectives and sentence structures. Don’t be afraid to use unusual language or sentence structure.

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Achiever | Noah Bunch wins writing contest  — The Courier-Journal
Achievement: Noah won first place in Kentucky's 2014 Letters About Literature writing contest for level 2, grades 7 and 8. He was the only local student to win an award this year.