Writing Picture Books

Create memorable stories for the youngest of readers

Writing Picture Books is ideal for anyone who wants to write a picture book that publishers and kids adore.

You will:
Learn about the picture book industry
Create characters children will love
Use language and rhythm to tell your story
Receive direct feedback on your own writing
Get guidance on publishing and illustrations.

“I have learned so much in this course that I can now apply to my stories to give them a fighting chance of being considered. I’d say it is well worth the investment in time and money. There is so much gold in there that you’ll come away overwhelmed with information… but in a good way!”
– Ross MacKay, Writing Picture Books graduate

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Key information
Key information:
This is an online course
Duration 1 This is an online course

Opens:
Monday 10 June 2024
Start any time during the week

Opens:
Monday 10 June 2024
Start any time during the week

Duration:
5 weeks
Allow 3–4 hours per week

Duration:
5 weeks
Allow 3–4 hours per week

Feedback:
Weekly

Feedback:
Weekly


$450
Can’t make this one? Just fill out this form and we’ll be in touch when there’s a course date that suits you.

Writing Picture Books

Five-week online course – an overview

In this online course, you’ll discover what you need to do to turn your story idea into a real picture book that kids— and their parents— will love to read. (Don't worry if you don't yet have a story idea – it's likely you'll be inspired as you complete the course!)

What is it that makes popular picture books so magical? How do you really know what appeals to children? Writing a picture book that publishers want is an art. But there are clear guidelines you can follow.

You'll unlock a module full of lessons each week and complete a small assignment due each Sunday night – plus receive direct feedback from your online tutor – an expert in the world of picture books.

There are also supplementary lessons that provide practical tips for illustrators – perfect if you're interested in both the writing and illustration side of picture book creations.

Lessons include:

  1. The big picture (book)

    What is a children’s picture book? You’ll explore many examples of children’s picture books and how the text and illustrations should work together. Understanding the format will help you understand the kinds of topics children are interested in, the word length and the pace of your story. You’ll receive feedback on a 3-part comparison writing exercise.

  2. Structure, pace, action and more

    In this module, you’ll look at the constraints and joys of writing for the 32-page format common to picture books. You’ll discover how to write an opening with regard to characterisation and emotion. And explore turning points, climaxes and resolutions. You’ll also learn about point of view and “show, don’t tell”. Your tutor will provide feedback on a piece you create in close focus point-of-view using a clear main character.

  3. Technique, self-editing and troubleshooting

    Learn how to plan your text for a double-page spread. This module will look at invisible punctuation – something unique to the picture book format. Once you understand the pace and structure of the format, you can focus on the action and emotional resonance, plus core themes which drive a picture book. You’ll receive feedback on an original story assignment.

  4. Language, word choice and rhythm

    In this module, you’ll look at poetic text to make your prose sparkle. You’ll also learn about some common traps for new picture book authors and discuss how to polish and edit your work. You’ll discover how different voices and reading patterns can change the rhythm and meaning of your work, as well as how to use noises and onomatopoeia, repetitive texts and more. You’ll receive tutor feedback on another original story assignment.

  5. The publishing process

    In this final week, you’ll learn how to submit your manuscript to a publisher, what to expect when working with an editor, and some legal and financial aspects. We’ll also share some great ways to keep in touch with the industry and its new trends. You’ll have the opportunity to bring together all of the skills you’ve learned and apply them to your own original story (including marketing blurbs) and receive valuable tutor feedback.

For this online course, you should be familiar with the following picture books (available at libraries or bookstores):

  • Harris Finds His Feet by Catherine Rayner
  • The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
  • Hairy Maclary by Lynley Dodd
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

We also offer Writing Picture Books Weekend Workshops as a special event in Melbourne.

Zewlan Moor completed Writing Picture Books

“If it wasn’t for the Australian Writers’ Centre, I think that I would have just always been in that stage of ‘I want to write one day’, the stage that I’ve been at since uni days. I probably would have never made the time to do the work, I would have not had deadlines, and I wouldn’t have had a clear pathway of how to reach my goals.

Through the Australian Writers’ Centre, I discovered that if I follow a pathway to publication, I can really do it. I always recommend Australian Writers’ Centre courses to my friends. Their courses are very structured and focused and I really feel that if you stick to it and do what they say, you will have success.”

Zewlan Moor, author of Nothing Like Me and The Bill Dup

Shelly Unwin Graduate of Australian Writers' Centre, author of Blast Off, There's a Baddie Running Through This Book and Hello, Baby!

Victoria Mackinlay Graduate of Australian Writers' Centre, author of Ribbit Rabbit Robot, The Bark Book and The Lion Who Came To Stay

Freda Chiu Graduate of Australian Writers’ Centre, author of A Trip To The Hospital

"Is this course for me?"

Writing Picture Books does not require any artistic skills (although if you have them, good for you!). It is a course in storytelling for anyone keen to explore this magical genre. People like these:

Are you an illustrator who wants to write children’s books?

Whether you want to follow in the footsteps of Maurice Sendak, Julie Vivas, Catherine Rayner or Bob Graham, this course will equip you with the information you need to write picture books that will enchant younger readers.

You already know how to draw – so we’re not going to teach you how to do that! Instead, you’ll learn the essential skills to write a brilliant picture book. And, in every module, we ALSO have a dedicated section – just for illustrators – to show you exactly how your images should work with the text, whether they’re your words or someone else’s.

You’ll discover how to create images that enhance the story, understand compositions that work (and those that don’t), what you need to know about the golden spiral and character creation, how the reader’s eyes track across the page, what you need to do to create movement, the importance of layering, what materials to avoid, how to show your work, and much more.

Importantly, you’ll gain the confidence and skills you need to write and illustrate picture books that publishers want to commission and readers will cherish forever.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Q: I'm a complete beginner. Is this course right for me?
A: You’ve come to EXACTLY the right place! Most students have simply read a lot of picture books (to themselves or to their kids) and that’s all the experience that is required.


Q: What do you mean exactly when you say “picture books”?
A: This course is all about how to write illustrated books for children under five. They're typically 500 words or fewer.


Q: Do I need to have a story idea?
A: Not at all. This course will teach the techniques to writing great stories, but you don’t need one at the start. Although it's quite common to have stacks of story ideas by the end!


Q: Do I need to have illustration skills?
A: Absolutely not. This is all about being an amazing author – publishers will normally match stories to an illustrator so it’s not something you need to worry about. (Of course if you ARE a good illustrator, this course will give you both skills!)


Q: How many others will be in the class – and are they all experienced writers?
A: The online classroom is a supportive learning environment and we purposefully keep classes small to make everyone more comfortable (no more than approx 20 per class). Everyone is there to learn and no experience is necessary, so you don't need to worry about being out of your depth.


Q: How does the online tutored class work exactly?
A: Each Monday, a new course module will be made available. You can choose any time that week to go through it – there is no set class time. Through the online learning hub, you can chat to classmates and your online tutor and get feedback on your weekly assignments (due each Sunday night).


Q: I'm a busy parent and work full-time. Can I fit this in?
A: Most of our students are busy people just like you. This course is flexible so that all you need to find is a few extra hours in the week, not necessarily all at once. You've totally got this!


Q: I want to write for children but how do I work out which writing course is right for me and my book?
A: Children's fiction is separated into a number of different categories, depending on the age range of the reader. We have a course to guide you in every one of these categories:

If you're not sure which area you might like to write in, one of the best ways to decide is to think about your protagonist. Kids like to read up a bit (that is, read a little older than they are) so if your protagonist is 10, you're likely writing either a chapter book or children's novel. If your protagonist is 16, then it falls into YA.

Ongoing story and publishing support

Writing Picture Books provides you with all the foundation skills you need to start creating fantastic picture book stories. And when you feel your story is ready to take to the next level, our Writing Picture Book Masterclass will cast an expert eye over your work. It’s the polish and publication advice all good stories need!

By the end of this online course you will have:

KNOWLEDGE:There’s a surprising amount to learn about the mechanics of putting a picture book together.
CONFIDENCE:Having the skills to create your own stories and knowing the formula is a fantastic thing!
INSPIRATION:Even if you didn’t have ideas before, the online course will help unleash your creativity.
MOTIVATION:The positive support and forward momentum this course offers, along with a continuing online community, will drive you to write your own picture book!
Graduates have gone on to score book deals and work with illustrators on their own picture books. It’s an exciting marketplace to be a part of!

But don’t just take our word for it…

“Do not submit a manuscript until you do this course. Absolutely a must do! I've come away with so much knowledge that I didn't know I needed. It was great fun too! Thank you so much for giving me a fabulous five weeks to try something for myself.”

Donna Louise Jones

“I never thought I'd say this, but I really enjoyed the homework assignments. They kept my mind in a place I love to be all week long. The tutor was an expert and gave valuable advice on how to improve our writing. Do the course! It will set you free. Thank you Australian Writers' Centre!”

Kelli Thomas

“I thoroughly enjoyed the course and it was probably one of the best online courses I've done in a while. I found the feedback positive, informative and not too overwhelming. I was able to use the feedback and advice to rework my ideas, tweak and adjust accordingly. Couldn't have asked for more!”

Rich Turer

“The material and assignments were challenging and yet still manageable with a full-time job and children to care for. My tutor was great – her feedback was to the point and she was very quick to respond to questions. Great online learning environment if you are willing to commit the time.”

Nikki Macor Heath

Picture an exciting future!

  • Imagine being able to capture the imagination of children.
  • Imagine their wide-eyed wonder as they read their favourite stories.
  • Imagine … writing those stories yourself!

Enrol in this online course today and unlock a new world of picture book storytelling… you won’t regret it!

Key information
Key information:
This is an online course
Duration 1 This is an online course

Opens:
Monday 10 June 2024
Start any time during the week

Opens:
Monday 10 June 2024
Start any time during the week

Duration:
5 weeks
Allow 3–4 hours per week

Duration:
5 weeks
Allow 3–4 hours per week

Feedback:
Weekly

Feedback:
Weekly


$450
Can’t make this one? Just fill out this form and we’ll be in touch when there’s a course date that suits you.

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