Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Different Way to Dummy a Picture Book

When writing a picture book it's good to dummy it up to see if there are enough unique scenes and good page turns. I've done it lots of times, torn a bunch of pieces of paper up into squares, stapled them together into a little book, cut and pasted my words onto the pages. It's fun and informative, but can time more time than I have, so I've come up with a different way to "dummy" my books.

Needing to write down a story real quick one day, and having ideas of where I wanted the art and page turns to be, I decided to get a few pieces of blank paper. I drew 32 squares. Number one by itself, number two and three together, and so on until the last page, 32, as a single square.(This is because 32 pages is the standard for picture books and the first and last page generally stand alone.) Then I wrote my story in the boxes.

Yes, I had to write small, but it fit just fine. I used pencil so I could move text around. I drew little sketches of the artwork I saw in my mind. No, I would not send it out with artwork, I'm not that good. But I can see the possibilities. I can see my words as a book, as a whole, on just a couple of pages. I can see where the writing and imagery are good and where the story needs to be improved.

It's nothing fancy, but it works. If you have even less time(as seems to happen periodically in life!), you can number your words according to page number. But I think this works better, and really doesn't take any extra time. Drawing the squares and doodles gives you something to do while you think.

If you have a different sort of way to dummy picture books I'd love to hear about it!


  1. I have picture book ideas and I think this approach might help me to see the whole picture. Very cool!

  2. I usually do this first as a kind of story board and then as I refine the ideas I make the initial sketches.

    When I have all the sketches finished and clear enough to paint I will paint one or two and print all the pages at the actual size and create a dummy book from those.

    I have an example on my website at:

  3. What a great, easy to do idea. Thanks!

  4. THIS IS BRILLIANT. Every time I've tried to write a PB manuscript I end up feeling like my brain's slowly leaking out of my ears, but I can see how this would be a simple but very helpful way to really SEE the organization of your words.

  5. Great idea! Good for when you want to see the whole thing at once. When I want to see it in more of a book format, I usually use Post-Its. Make a stack of 16 (or just peel the top 16 off your block of Post-Its), and you have a book. They're already sticky, but you can add a staple or two for good measure.

  6. Did I just see BRILLIANT?! Hee hee. Glad I could help out with a "new" idea. I like the Post-Its idea too, Ishta.
    *Off to check out Ginger's dummy.