Picture Book Revision Checklist

I am compiling a picture book checklist, to make sure I cover all my bases during revisions. Over the years I’ve collected suggestions and ideas from others and have added a few of my of my own.

PB Revision Checklist

  • Does the plot have a clear beginning, middle, and end?
  • Does the beginning jump right into the action?
  • What does the character want?
  • What is standing in her way?
  • What is at stake? What happens if she doesn’t get what she wants?
  • Is it from a child’s perspective?
  • Does the main character solve his own problem?
  • Did you leave room for the illustrator?
  • Remove unnecessary words. The sweet spot for fiction is under 500.
  • Check for passive language. Use strong nouns and verbs.
  • Do the characters have distinct personalities?
  • Read it aloud. Record yourself or have someone read it to you.
  • Does it make you FEEL something?
  • Print it out. Change the font.
  • Check for fun, lyrical language.
  • Create a dummy.
  • Swap critiques with a couple friends.
  • Get a paid critique from an author, agent, or editor.
  • Let it sit for a couple weeks. Come back to it with fresh eyes.
  • Repeat the steps above as needed.
  • Have three polished manuscripts ready before submitting.

This checklist is still a work in progress. What would you add to the list?

Susanna’s Holiday Contest

It’s time for Susanna Leonard Hill’s Annual Holiday Contest. Stories have to be under 350 words and show weather impacting the holidays. Susanna’s contests are so much fun. Here we go!

Christmas cactus


Billy loved his new home in the desert. He swam, soaked up the sun, and caught lizards in his own back yard. But his excitement wore off in December. Hanging lights in flip flops felt strange. Making gingerbread houses with the windows open didn’t seem quite right either. Billy did not want a desert Christmas.

He tried ice-blocking to replace sledding, but only had a smidgen of fun. It still didn’t feel like winter. He turned on Christmas music and decorated the house, hoping that would help. It didn’t. Turning on a Christmas movie just reminded him of what he missed most. Billy sighed. “Does it ever snow here?”

He wrote a letter to the one person who might be able to help.

Dear Santa,

Christmas in the desert isn’t as fun as Christmas up north. Can you send snow? I will be extra nice to Macy.


Billy stared at the letter. “Who am I kidding? Santa can’t make it snow.” He crumpled the paper and turned to throw it away, but froze and smiled. He asked Macy to help him with a top-secret mission.

Billy and Macy crumpled every piece of paper from the recycle bin. They hid behind a bush, waiting for Dad to come home. Finally, Dad climbed out of the car.

“Desert snowball fight!” Billy nailed him in the chest with a paper snowball.

“What the…?” Dad said.

Macy joined the attack. A flurry of crunchy white flew through the air. Dad dodged, darted, and ducked. He scooped up some desert snowballs, and launched a counter-attack. Mom came outside to see what all the noise was about.

“Get her!” Macy hit her in the shoulder.

Mom joined the battle. The desert snowball fight went on until everyone was laughing too hard to continue. They collapsed on the green grass and looked up at the blue sky.

“That was awesome,” Billy said. “Let’s go eat popsicles around the Christmas tree. I bet they aren’t doing that up north.”



November is quickly becoming one of my favorite months.

It’s not because of this, at least not entirely.

It is definitely not because of this:
I can do without Movember.

I love November because of this.

I am participating in PiBoIdMo, Tara Lazar‘s Picture Book Idea Month for the second time. When I’m consciously trying to generate ideas, creativity breeds like the rabbits living in my hedges. The strangest things can spark ideas. Sometimes an idea seems too stupid to write down. But often, those are the ones that lead to something unique.

I bought some new pants last month. When I got them home, I found a seam coming apart in the leg. My typical instinct is to never tug at a thread. It’s too risky. My writer side tells me to tug at every thread and see what unravels. Maybe those pants were not meant to be pants. Maybe they are really a skirt or a tent or a parachute in disguise. You never know until you tug.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be in my office, tugging on threads while eating peppermint bark ice cream.

Inspiration in an unlikely place

mcdonaldsThe other day my two youngest were stir crazy. It was too hot for the park, so I took them to their favorite (and my least favorite) place for ice cream. On my way out the door I slipped a picture book manuscript into my purse, in true Ame Dyckman fashion.

Within seconds, my kids made eight new friends. They met pirates, Power Rangers, and princesses. One girl was positive she was Elsa. I know people heard her singing, “Let it go” from the drive-through. The kids played happily for a whole hour while I revised. My daughter yelled, “Look Mom, I’m at the very top,” a dozen times. It was loud and crazy and wonderful. Oddly, it was the most productive writing session I’ve had in weeks.

I thought I needed quiet time to write in my office. But I really needed the a fast food playground. Sometimes a little chaos gets the creative juices flowing.

Public Service Announcement!
Here is a business idea for you entrepreneurial people, free of charge. Open a restaurant that has good food and a playground. Parents hate being forced to choose between good food and happy kids. You’ll make millions, guaranteed. I would do it myself, but my interest in the food industry lies in the eating category.

Kidlit Fertilizer

What does fertilizer have to do with publishing? Everything.

As a lifelong athlete I am a big fan of quotes. Before big games, I read inspirational quotes to get in the right mindset. Now I use quotes to inspire the kids I coach. This is one of my favorites.


This quote always gets a chuckle, but it’s true. Losing makes you hungry for a win and hunger is a great motivator. You identify your weaknesses, work your tail off, study the competition, and go after it again.

I recently read a fantastic post about Kate Messner’s presentation at the 2014 SCBWI conference in New York. She said, “Never underestimate the power of failure.” I couldn’t agree more.

There is a lot of fertilizer in this business. That’s a whole lot of potential power, so bring the stink on!

Full Manuscript Edit Giveaway!

dear-editorContests come and go, but here is one you don’t want to miss! Deborah Halverson is giving away a full manuscript edit to celebrate the completion of her latest book, Writing and Selling New Adult Fiction.

Deborah is an author and a veteran editor. I went to one of her classes at the SCBWI conference last summer and it was possibly my favorite hour of the entire weekend. She is amazing. You can find contest details on Dear Editor.

Why I Write

never-give-upWhen I started my kidlit journey, something shifted in my brain. I am a different reader now, always evaluating the story. Movies are no longer mindless entertainment. I analyze the character development, the plot, the resolution.

It’s a curse, really, having your mind always on. But it’s a beautiful curse. I can be watching my kids play, and BAM! A picture book storyline pops in my head. I’m minding my own business, conditioning my hair, when a book title falls from the rainforest shower-head. (Not really, I don’t have one of those. But it would be nice, wouldn’t it?) The point is, even when I’m not actually writing, I’m gathering ideas, processing them, and writing in my head. I think about it every single day, and that is why I write.