Three common mistakes picture book authors make with voice

Okay. I’m in a no-nonsense mood. Let’s jump straight in, shall we?

1. Inconsistent voice

I see this a lot.

The voice of a piece alternates between extremely simplistic, (to the point of bland), all the way through to a voice that is lyrical, literary and dangerously lofty. And this all takes place in one story.


Aim for consistency and relatability.

Read your piece, listen to your piece, from the perspective of a child.

What would a child enjoy? What would a child understand? What would stretch and delight, but not patronise or befuddle a little kid?

2. Poor choice of tense

This relates in particular to present tense.

If you choose to write a picture book in the present tense, be clear on why you’re doing so.

Ask yourself, does this tense best showcase my story, does it add to my story or does it slow it down?

Present tense is tricky. It can be jarring. It can also have a distancing effect on the reader.

I’m not saying don’t use it. I’m just saying choose wisely.


Rewrite your story in past tense and do a comparison. When it comes to tense, make an informed decision.

3. Redundant dialogue

Misplaced or unnecessary dialogue can complicate a story, bog it down, detract from the action, and/or confuse young readers.


During your rewrites, delete as much dialogue as possible. Especially anything that you can see is padding.

Trim the dialogue. Focus instead on tightening the storyline and the action, and showcasing your protagonist— bringing your main character to the fore.

Want to know more about voice? Here’s a link to a video I made recently.

You’re welcome!

Jen xo

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One Reply to “Three common mistakes picture book authors make with voice”

  1. I am finally on the other side of submitting some writing to a competition (Scribbles CWA) and I have no idea if I got any of this advice right. Submitted was the goal. I feel a great sense of achievement from simply submitting. Your courses and clips and various groups and lessons have taught me so much. Progress not perfection. Last year, I thought writing magically poured from my pen. Now I have completed several of your courses and I can say, my understanding about creative writing has changed completely. I need a lot more practice, but feel quite confident I have the necessary tools, thanks to you. Thank you Jen.

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