Posted by: nancyisanders | January 27, 2014

Nonfiction Picture Books: Chart Published Plots, Part 2

Now let’s chart the plot and structure of the nonfiction picture book, So You Want to Be President?

Once again, let’s use a copy of the Basic Plot Worksheet A. Print it out and write down the information on it.

Start by filling in the stats on the left column.
* Fill in the title and the author’s name, Judith St. George.
* The original publisher was Philomel but the copy I have is published by Scholastic.
* You can find the copyright date inside. It’s registered 2000 under the author’s name. This shows us that it’s not a recent book, so it’s not quite as current in today’s market. Also, since it’s registered in the author’s name and not in the publisher’s name, it’s probably a royalty contract, which is a good plus.
* According to Amazon, the Target Age is 6-8 years.
* The word count is a whopping 2239 words. This is where it’s important to realize this book was published 14 years ago, and most nonfiction picture book publishers want books about 800 words these days. The exception to this is a publisher who is currently publishing longer books. For example, when I talked with the publisher at Lee and Low at a conference about 2 years ago, she said she likes longer nonfiction picture books. So for our purposes here we’re writing an 800-word manuscript, but if you want to write a longer one, first do a little bit of homework and dig around to find longer current nonfiction picture books and look up their publisher information to target.
* Under notes, make a note that it is 56 pages. Once again, that’s pretty hefty for today’s market. We’re going to aim for 32 pages, unless you are targeting a specific publisher you know does longer nonfiction books.

Now we’re ready to fill in the plot chart.
Once again, there’s no right or wrong way to do this, but the key thing we want to look for is SIGNIFICANT CHANGE.

For example, in the first column under “Beginning,” you can answer the question “How does the story start?”
* It talks about good and bad things about being a President

Change 1: If YOU want to be President… (page 12)

Now, it’s at this point that this picture book starts to LIST things. Instead of a story arc, the middle of this book is comprised of LISTS. Some nonfiction picture books do this. For example, they might list women in the American revolution or teachers in the space program.

So on this chart, there is NO CHANGE in the middle. The entire middle is one long list of different presidents doing different things. So in the middle under the second and third column write: Lists of different presidents doing different things.

Change 3: There they are…the Presidents. (page 42)

In the fourth column under “End,” you can answer the question “How does the story end?”
* Very inspirational wrap-up. Some succeeded and some failed. (pages 42-47)

And on the last line, note that there is Back Matter on pages 48-52.

One last item to note…on the line that goes from beginning to end, rising up toward the right, write:

Progresses loosely from birth to death of various Presidents to build “tension.”

Here’s what my completed chart looks like:

Basic Plot Worksheet A President


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