HomeGet writingWhere have all the words gone?

I write picture books. Recently I’ve learnt about cutting words and letting the pictures tell the story. I’ve heard that picture books with very few words are in favour. I’ve laughed out loud over the 100 words in Jon Klassen’s award winning book This is not my hat. I love Jez Alborough’s book Tall – which only has about four words. I’m so impressed by books with no words at all. If only I could illustrate perhaps I’d need less words!

But when I snuggle down to read a story to my children I want something to tell. Yes it is fun to make up a story and enjoy the creativity of interpreting the pictures but I want the rhythm of the text with my child simply relaxing and listening before bed.
I was struck by some very pertinent comments from one of the illustrators in my SCBWI group abut cutting words, “As a writer, you’re wanting to control and take joy in the words… for the writer it must be like giving up part of your creation.”

I remember hours of fun with Colin McNaughton. His book Suddenly has few words but could these be cut further? What if we didn’t have the words like “Preston was doing the shopping” – after all it’s obvious from the picture. It’s also obvious that the story would lose it’s rhythm if they were removed.
So have we gone too far with word removal, or is it just that I can’t let go enough to arrive at the perfect balance between words and text?

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