Thursday, May 22, 2014

Pacing in Picture Books: Insights from a Twitter Chat with Jodell Sadler

Did you catch the recent Twitter chat with agent Jodell Sadler on picture book pacing? [#PBPacing] Thanks to KidLit411 and Jodell, I got a chance to think more about pacing and found some great resources where I can learn even more. Here are some of the insights from Jodell's chat:

“PB Pacing is about the interplay of art and words, the slowing and speeding of the text to enhance story emotionally.

“It is about paying attention to what I call "The XPs of Picture Books: prosody, poetry, play, plot and performance.

“Pacing enhances the story arc, increase tension. Many tools serve as pacing markers, i.e., the repetitive line.”

Jodell suggested creating a two column table in Word with 16-18 rows to help check the pacing and page turns. Her comments made me think a lot about how the page turns move the story along and create tension: 

“Page turns are integral. They offer surprise, new scenes, and interactivity to your book--a performance.”

“It's about exploring the negative space of writing: how much can we pull back and lure our reader in.”

“Most important part of page turns is the play... make those leaps and jumps in MS to surprise readers.

I was also very interested in Jodell's responses to questions about keeping down word counts, since agents and editors often ask for manuscripts of 500 words or less. It's so challenging sometimes! She referred back to the 20 tools she has studied and discussed in length on her website, Pacing Picture Books. Jodell's website is a preview of her upcoming book on pacing (I can hardly wait!)  

“Pacing helps writers make sound decisions in dropping word count.”

“When you explore tools and see how they layer and enhance story, less words are needed, the pace quickens.”

This was probably my favourite quote of the chat: 

“The magic of picture book pacing starts with the writer. When you pour all your passion onto the page.”

This chat was so inspiring! I’m revising one of my picture books today, based on some of this great advice.  For further information you can check out Jodell Sadler’s work on pacing at: or follow her on twitter @PacingStory2WOW

For some examples of well-paced stories:
If you also write middle grade like I do, you'll find examples that discuss middle grade and YA books.

There is also an interesting agent spotlight with Jodell Sadler on KidLit411.


  1. I'll never be a PB writer, but I think discussion of their craft is fascinating all the same. Long ago, I remember reading Jane Yolen's explanation of how they are so structure-dependent. They are really a unique genre.

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I missed the twitter chat. Now off to investigate further! :)


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