Using Mentor Texts

I thought, at this point, it might be useful if I broke down some of my texts into spreads/ type/ number of spreads and word count, not least so you can see how much variation there is. 

AERODYNAMICS OF BISCUITS (2015) MAVERICK prose, fantasy, fiction 13 332 
HOW RUDE! (2018) QUARTO prose, humorous, dialogue only 14.5 148 
THE TIDE (2019) LITTLE TIGER lyrical prose, sensitive theme 12 385 
HOW SELFISH! (2020) QUARTO prose, humorous, dialogue only 14.5 176 
THE PERFECT SHELTER (2020) LITTLE TIGER lyrical prose, sensitive theme 12432
POO! IS THAT YOU?! MACMILLAN prose, humorous, non-fiction picture book 15807 + fact files 
SCISSORELLA ANDERSENProse, re-imagining of a traditional tale 13699
TIME TO MOVE SOUTH FOR WINTER NOSY CROW lyrical prose, non-fiction picture book 14.5542 + fact files 

One way of ‘planning’ your picture book text, might be to try writing out the words of another book you like or one that’s a similar in structure to the one you want to write. This is sometimes called using a ‘mentor text.’ Notice the page breaks, where and how the tension builds over the spreads. Analysing the structure of a mentor text can help to; 

– ensure pace throughout your story 

– create a visually varied text 

– ensure there’s the right balance of action across the spreads 

– use the spread of the text to your advance and for effect. Think ellipsis, page turns and wordless spreads. 

Keep an eye out to see if the author has used any of these structural devices: 

– The rhythm of threes: Does the character fails three times before succeeding? 

– Cause-and-effect action: does action lead directly to a reaction that in turn leads to another action? 

– Escalating action: does action build from a smaller to a larger conflict? 

– Suspense: Is the reader kept in the dark until the very end ? 

– Circular form: Does the story begin with a certain phrase and ends with that same phrase or a slight rewording of it? 

– Is there an alphabetical, counting, or repetitive phrase? 

There’s more about using mentor texts, here: and here: 

I’ve also found that is good when looking for mentor texts – you can type any theme into the search box and it comes up with a selection of PBs on that topic. 

I definitely recommend reading this post on Mentor Texts, written by Natascha Biebow, which takes you through what to do step-by-step.

This way of working might not suit everyone, but perhaps give it a try. I’ve heard authors of longer fiction say that ‘one month’s planning cuts writing time by many more months.’ I think the same goes for picture books, even if the planning is loose thinking time or chatting about it with a friend. Writing a pitch could even be described as a short plan!