Archive for June, 2012


Picture Book Dummy

copyright 2012 by Sherry Garland

I recently taught a week long course called Writing for Children and YAs.  One of the exercises that all the students agreed helped them the most was the making of a picture book dummy.  One student cut her manuscript down from 2000 words to 800.  So here are my instrucitons for that project.  Enjoy!


Materials needed:

Pencil (not pen)


Large paper

Rubber cement or tape

Colored pens/pencils [optional]

Step 1: Get blank paper

11×17 blank paper  (8 sheets folded in half to make a 32-page booklet)

you may also use a 32 page Blank Book (already bound – available from educational publishers)

Step 2: Number the blank pages 1-32 in pencil, starting with first page on the right side.  Dbl page spreads will have even number on left; odd number on the right.

Step 3: Using a pencil, divide your text into what you think should be the page breaks for each double page spread. Try to aim for 14 dbl page spreads. Remember:

a) Each page break should evoke a different illustration.

b) Each page break should not have so much text that there is no room for the art.

c) Each page turn should do one or more of the following

1) create a change in time (forward moving)

2) change of location (may be subtle like different room)

3) change of action (pace gets more exciting toward the end)

4) change of characters (new things introduced)

Step 2: Count the text selections [page spreads].

Do you have more than 14 spreads? _____

Do you have less than 13 spreads?  _____

Tip: Divide the number of text selections into your word count. This is the approximate number of words that should appear on each page. Ex: 900 wds divided by 14 = 64 wds per spread.  500 words divided by 14 = 36 wds per page.

It is okay to have variety in length of text, but avoid radical changes like lots of text on one page then one line on the next.

Step 4:  Front Matter

On page 1 (first single page to the right) make a title page

On page 2 make a copyright page

On page 3 make a dedication page

[Note:  If you only had 13 spreads, you can add two extra pages to the front matter.]

Step 5: Body of book (pp. 4-31)

Glue or tape text to blank paper starting on the Page 4-5 Spread

Options on where to place the text:

Left side of page only or right side of page only, centered toward middle

Both pages across top;

Both pages across bottom.

 Step 6:  Illustrations

Draw a rough pencil sketch for each section you have pasted. Stick figures ok.

Options on where to place your sketch:

Left side only

Right side only

Going across both pages

[Note: You may draw your sketch on blank 8.5×11 paper, then cut and glue it to the final dummy, if you prefer.) You may color your sketch if you want.

Step 7:  Tailpiece [page 32]

The last page may be a single illustration that finishes off the story; a few words; or left blank. For informational books it may be an author’s note, bibliography.

Step 8: Analysis

Did you end up with a 32 page book? ____   Too long? ____   Too short? _____

Was the text fairly evenly distributed among all pages? _________

Which page had the most text? _______     The least text? _________

Did each scene move the story forward? _________

Did each scene evoke a different illustration? ______

Step 9:  Revise

If you had less than 12 spreads, could this be a 24 page board book?

If you had over 14 dbl spreads, suggestions for revising:

a) cut the material down to reduce # of spreads

b) combine one or more of the scenes into one

c) move up to a 40 page book (more common in NF; publisher makes this decision)

If you had 13 dbl page spreads, you are probably okay.  The publisher can always add more front matter.

If you had 12 or less spreads, suggestions for revising:

a) add more front matter pages such as another title page or extra illustration

b) add some back matter (author’s note, bibliography, etc.).

c) add another scene or two

 Step 10: Make another dummy [outside class – for your own use]

Once you have determined where to put all the front matter, back matter and body of the picture book, make another 32 page dummy.


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