How to Outline a Picture Book Without Getting Overwhelmed – Cardinal Rule Press
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How to Outline a Picture Book Without Getting Overwhelmed

If you’re a planner like me, then odds are you like to approach your creative projects with a firm idea of where you’re going and what steps you need to take to get there. When it comes to writing for children, you’ll benefit from a detailed outline. There’s only one problem … putting the perfect outline together can be a big stressor in and of itself. In this blog, I’ll show you the exact outlining tool I used for all of my bestselling and award-winning children’s books so you can outline your picture book stress-free.

How to Outline a Picture Book: The Blueprint Method

  • Step 1: Prep Your Message & Main Character
  • Step 2: Put Your Main Character on an Adventure
  • Step 3: Craft a Satisfying Ending

Disclaimer: There are lots of ways to start writing your book. Even though this order works for me, you might find it easier to rearrange what you start with. This is normal! Feel free to take this guide and adapt it to your needs.

Step 1: Prep Your Message & Main Character

Every children’s book I write starts with a message I want to teach my children or other children. The message is one thing you want readers to remember after they’ve finished reading your story.

Even if you’re inspired to write because of a message, this is not why children pick up a book. Children read to be entertained. As an author, your job is to entertain your reader.

To do that you need to take your main character on an adventure.

Your main character is the vehicle you use to drive the story forward.

Without a good sense of who your character is, your story could end up feeling flat. Here are the top 3 most important questions to ask about your main character before outlining:

  • What are my main character’s passions or goals?
  • What does my main character need most in life?
  • What would be absolutely devastating to my character?

Give yourself some time to think through these questions. They’ll end up being the backbone of your story. Then, you’ll be ready to combine your message with your main character and produce the plot.

Step 2: Put Your Main Character on an Adventure

Now that you know who your character is and what matters most to them, you can put them on an adventure. But don’t lose sight of what’s important.

Remember your message? Now’s your chance to see it come to life. Think of a situation or adventure you can set the main character on that will BOTH mean something to them and convey the message.

For example, in my award-winning picture book I CAN Believe in Myself, the main character is deeply afraid of public speaking. To her, being called on to speak to the class would be devastating. I also knew that I wanted to teach children they CAN believe in themselves. 

Then, I combined those things to create a story: the main character would be called on to speak in class, but to do so, she would have to grow her confidence and learn to believe in herself. That’s how I combined my message with my character’s personality.

Now you’re probably wondering, but how do I actually show that progression? How do I show my main character learning the message?

That’s where the Children’s Book Blueprint will come in handy. To make outlining the plot simple, break the story down into these sections:

  1. The Problem & Call-to-Action
  2. The Roadblocks or Checkpoints
  3. The Solution

You can download the full Children’s Book Blueprint HERE.

The Problem & Call-to-Action

The problem in your story is the big hurdle your main character must overcome in order to learn the message. 

Miriam Laundry is the founder of ML Publishing, the author of five bestselling and award-winning children’s books, and a TEDx speaker; not to mention a Guinness World Record holder. It is Miriam’s mission to give authors the knowledge and confidence they need to publish their children’s books and make a positive impact on the younger generation.

Now Miriam dedicates her time to helping writers get their book published and in the hands of the children who need it. Her company, Miriam Laundry Publishing, has published over 50 children’s books and counting.

Authors who partner with Miriam gain more than their first bestselling publication: they also gain lasting friendships, a strong community, and the courage to chase their dreams.

Miriam firmly believes quality children’s books can change the world. She has been featured on The Morning Show, Earn Your Happy with Lori Harder, and more.

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