I gave a workshop yesterday on 'Writing Picture Books'. I always try to provide a broad range of information. Everything from the function of a picture book, and some ground rules for writing the text, to how to lay out your manuscript and who is currently open to submissions. There are writing exercises and plenty of opportunity for questions. Some of it is necessarily vague because there aren't always easy answers - where do you get ideas from, and what exactly is 'voice.' And how I do things won't always work for other people. You have to find the process that works best for you, and that will involve trial and error. It can be hard to push through when the things you are trying aren't working. But perseverance really is the key. I find reading my favourite picture book texts can help me keep going. They remind me what I'm aiming for and refresh my memory on the techniques and parameters involved. And they are lovely things which delight me. If you are committed to writing picture books and don't have any favourites, then your first task is to go out and find some. Seriously people, don't write them if you do not know them well enough to have favourites.
Once you get in to the writing, it can sometimes be hard to see the wood for the trees. And it can be nigh on impossible to stand back and be dispassionate about something you are pouring body and soul into. If you are committed to writing picture books, your body and soul will be required. The most successful picture books are built on body and soul. You can feel them through the pages and they will reach out and hold your heart and mind as you read.
Anyways, I digress. One of the tools I use often, which makes a real difference to my writing, is intuition. You may not recognize it at first. It takes some practice to use it effectively, and some folk will need to build it up with some exercise and training. One of the ways I discovered the value of my own intuition was how, without necessarily knowing why, I would pause time and again over a particular sentence in my work. The sentence may have made sense, and been grammatically functional, but my intuition had spotted what my conscious mind was resisting. That sentence didn't serve the purpose it needed to serve, or, perhaps didn't even belong. Sometimes paragraphs or whole sections aren't working or aren't even necessary. Maybe they don't fit with the tone or voice of the rest of the story. You know which ones they are. You keep coming back to them. They look fine and you spent ages titivating and refining them. You're not sure why you keep stopping at this particular spot in your story. But by now your intuition is jumping up and down waving its arms going, 'See! See! This bit here!! Your story will be better off without it!'
And, intuition, if you let it, will tell you when something is finished. Complete. Ready to face the world. At first your conscious mind will override your intuition and tell you something is ready when it isn't. I know I've sent things out too early. Your conscious mind always thinks it knows best. Tosser. But experience will strengthen your intuition. Just relax and let it speak. And you should listen.