I recently talked about illustration notes and when you should and shouldn’t use them. Today I’m going to share with you how to format those notes. But first, some rules:
· Keep your notes simple
· Do your best to make your illustration notes flow with the story so you don’t interrupt the text
· Don’t use colored text for your illustration notes (or any of your manuscript for that matter)
· Revise, edit, and proofread your notes as you do the rest of your manuscript. This includes reading them out loud
· Never use illustration notes to dictate anything that isn’t crucial to your story. Ever. The illustrator is a partner in your book and will put their creativity to work from what your story brings to their mind. You have to trust in this
Okay, no matter how much we writers try not to use them, sometimes illustration notes are necessary. You definitely want them to be formatted in an easy to read and understand way. They shouldn't take center stage or be overpowering. They should be there because they must.
There are a few ways that I have formatted illustration notes in my picture book manuscripts. Almost every time I simply put them in italic parenthesis in line with the text like this: (Illustration note: Jim is a dog.) Placement is important. You want to put the note by the text that the illustration needs to make clear but you don't want to break a sentence or paragraph up and make it choppy. I usually opt to place the note at the end of the paragraph.
When I’ve had manuscripts that contain italicized thoughts I have bolded my illustration notes instead of italicizing. This seemed to not be too overpowering since there were only a couple of notes amongst a lot of text. I suppose you could use ALL CAPS if you wanted as well but I suspect that might be a bit overpowering. Take a look at overall manuscript and decide on how it works best aesthetically.
If you have one overall illustration note for the story that needs to be told a good place to put it is right up at the top right corner header on your manuscript under your word count. (If you don't know how to format a picture book go here.) I have seen it said to put the note in your cover letter but if readers need to know that information for your story to work (which I assume they do otherwise you shouldn’t be using the note) you want it on that manuscript. Things get separated, may not be read at the same time, etc.
Of course you could use other words besides "Illustration note" such as Illustration suggestion, Art or Art note. You could use [brackets] instead of parenthesis. The basics are not too big of a deal. What is important is how and when you choose to use illustration notes. Choose wisely! Any questions?