Monday 2 January 2023

An acrostic of patience by Chitra Soundar


Welcome to 2023 at Picture Book Den.

Our Den is cosy and warm and no gas and electricity bills to pay. We have stacks of picture books, wise authors and illustrators who absolutely love the medium of picture books. 

For the last few years, I’ve been the posting the first blog post of each year. That’s like coming out of hibernation after we posted our final post of 2022 and prepare for it, in the lazy stupor between Christmas and New Year.

Over these years, I’ve grown as a writer (I really hope so). And I have gotten used to being patient. Patience as you know is the key to being a writer. More so, as a picture book writer. While chapter books and novels can be published in a year from signing a contract, picture books take longer. 

I’m someone who loves instant gratification simply because I had to wait for everything as a child. A trip to the movies had to be budgeted weeks away, an ice-cream treat had to be saved up for. So as an adult, when I became financially independent, I gave myself the luxury of instant gratification.

And then I became a writer! As a writer, as much as you want to see your words in print, in book form in a child’s hand, the manuscript goes through a long journey. Sometimes it ends up as envisaged. Sometimes it gets stuck in the dark corner of my hard-disk called ARCHIVE. 

Some of my stories took years in the making. Here is an example of I patiently wrote and rewrote one story and willed it into publication. 

Another example of a story I edited over many years, and never gave up is this one! I wrote it as a picture book but when the opportunity arose, I submitted it as an early reader and it worked. 
Illustrated by Hannah Marks and Published by Bloomsbury Education

For someone who is impatient in life – if I think of something I have to do it, I’ve also learnt the art of being patient. So I thought I'd share some of my hard-learned wisdom on patience with you through an ACROSTIC. 

Pput it away. After you write your text, don’t send it to anyone. Put it away and re-read it after a few weeks. Edit and put it away for a few days. The more you let it stew, better your perspective. 

AAvoid submitting it too early. Make sure you’ve got a peer to read it – someone who is also writing picture books, someone you trust who will give you good feedback. Read this post by Michelle Robinson on the balloon analogy.

T Take the story out for a walk. Read it aloud. Read it to a group of children, not all your own. See if you can find a local nursery or Reception class in your local school who might let you read it to their class. Read the story with voices. Act out the characters. As an oral storyteller, I’ve found that telling the story aloud, reading it aloud many times and making someone else read your story aloud helps. It helps to see what’s wrong with it and what works.

IIdentify what’s wrong with the text. This is a craft thing – learn your own flaws. Do you use too many “was”? Do you tell more than show? Are you over-writing? Make a list of things to look out for and identify them in every rewrite. 

Eelevate your text. Always aim to write at the level of the best picture books written for children. Don’t pick one that’s so-so and think you can write as good as that. Aim high! A common example in manuscripts I review is the word count. Most UK published picture books are around 300 words. Challenge yourself to tell the story in 300 words, instead of pointing at decade-old examples of picture books with 1000 words in them. 

N Find that niggle. When you’re reading that text, you know a word or a line or even the plot is not working for some reason. But you think no one will notice. The whole text might fall apart if you pick at it. But believe me, someone will notice it. A trained eye of the editor will definitely pull that one piece bringing the structure down. So, it’s better you fix it before you show an agent or an editor.

C Find a critique group or a critique partner. If you already have one, listen to their critiques, notes and feedback. You don’t have to change your text to satisfy every critique. But you must listen to the note under the note. You don’t even have to use the ideas of your critique group to fix the problems in your text (my critique group is awesome and they help with a lot of ideas). It’s ultimately the call of the writer. But if everyone’s saying spread 5 has a problem – then spread 5 perhaps has a problem. Ignoring it will not make it go away. Defending it will not help because when you submit to an agent or an editor, you won’t be there in person to defend it. 

EKnow when to end. Both the story and the process. Knowing when to end a picture book is as important as when to start it. Younger picture books, especially fun ones, end with a twist, a joke or a surprise after the last page. Find out if your text lends itself to a quirky ending – satisfying and leaving the reader with a chuckle. 

However, knowing when to end the writing process is a trickier. Sometimes we pick at it so much for months together that the life in the story gets killed. Sometimes a story isn’t going to work. It wasn’t an idea for kids or it wasn’t idea that you can make it work as a picture book. Let it go. 

But you know what will work? Putting it away… So back to the first step of PATIENCE. 

Now that you’ve heard me rant about patience, here is a story tip! 

There are not that many books about “being patient” for young picture book readers. Perhaps you can learn the art of patience by writing a story about it? That’s your new year’s challenge from Picture Book Den!

Chitra Soundar is an internationally published, award-winning author of children’s books and an oral storyteller. Chitra regularly visits schools, libraries and presents at national and international literary festivals. She is also the creator of The Colourful Bookshelf, a curated place for books for children by British authors and illustrators.  

 Find out more at and follow her on twitter here and Instagram here.

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