Saturday, November 10, 2012

Novel vs Picture Book Throw-down!

November is National Novel Writing Month.  Wait.  No.  November is Picture Book Month.  I'm so confused!!!!!!  Apparently, November just plain loves to read, so it can't decide whether it's novel month or picture book month.

How shall I honor this identity-challenged writing celebration?  Write a novel and read a picture book?  Read a novel and write a picture book?  Curl up under the covers with one of each?

I spend a lot of time with picture books, being a third grade teacher.  In this visual age, they definitely call to readers.  For writers, that can be a siren call.  "I started with a picture book because I thought it would be easier."  Fighting words!  Picture books force you to focus on the essence of good story structure and word choice.  One false step can throw the whole thing off.  In picture books, every word counts.  That's the worst possible thinking when you're trying to pound out 50,000 words in one month for NaNoWriMo.  Polishing can be your enemy there.  In picture books, less is more.  What is unsaid gives the illustrator the freedom essential to their role.  In novels, the words ARE the illustrations, and the reader's experience depends on those rich textural details that envelop them in another world.

Some folks have made NaNoWriMo and Picture Book Month (PiBoMo????) into a hybrid challenge by setting a goal to brainstorm a certain number of picture book concepts by the end of the month.  I guess you can morph NaNoWriMo to meet your own goals.   Hell, why not set a goal of writing an epic poem, or an entire collection of short stories centered on a given theme?  I can't help wondering if it's right to cram an endless list of genres into one month, but it's meant to provide the external kick-in-the-pants to jumpstart your work if you're stalled.  Maybe it should be renamed "Kick-in-the-pants Month" or "Break Your Writer's Block Month."  No?  Okay.

So, why November?  Is it the cold, gray days that make our brains and spirits go into hybernation?  We definitely need something to energize us in the face of that desire to curl up and hide.  I confess, Picture Book Month appeals to the hibernating bear cub in me.  Get me a cup of hot cocoa, my jammies, a snuggly comforter and a big overstuffed chair.  Load me up with picture books and let me while away the dark and dismal winter like a dormant rose bush.  Then, come spring, all that stored up energy can burst forth in a flurry of 50,000 words.

In the end, I can't choose.  Writing or reading, I love a good picture book and I love a good novel.  Don't they each deserve their own month????


  1. Why not try short stories as a bridge between the two? :)

    1. Actually, one of my writing friends is doing just that, and she's got 30,000 words worth of short stories!

      I love short stories as an option, especially when I need to clear my head or regroup for larger projects.


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