Posted by: nancyisanders | February 7, 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book: Your Outline, The Beginning

Now let’s spend time discussing the beginning of your manuscript.

We’re going to take a closer look at each of our 3 picture book samples and focus on their beginnings.

For your own current project, just concentrate on the picture book you’ve chosen to follow for your format. But read the information on the other 2 books, too, so you can use this info in a future potential picture book project. And if you have your own sample picture book that you’re following for the format, hopefully you can adapt this to your unique project!

The Camping Trip That Changed America (Slice of Life)
Page 3: An introduction/overview of the 2 main characters, how they were different and had one thing in common and that’s what changed America (strong tie in to the theme).
Page 4: Introduces Roosevelt’s boyhood and family and his main accomplishment as an adult
Page 5: Introduces Muir’s boyhood and family and his main accomplishment as an adult
Page 6: The first change in the plot: Roosevelt reads one of Muir’s books and sees his plea for help to save the forests

Those Rebels, John & Tom (Compare and Contrast)
Page 3: An introduction/overview to the story that is exciting and focused on the theme: compares and contrasts.
Page 4-5: Introduces how 2 main characters are different
Page 6: Gives fun examples about John’s boyhood: skipped school to have fun. 2 sentences.
Page 7: Gives direct contrast of Tom’s boyhood: loved school, especially books! 3 sentences
Pages 8-9: Shows how John and Tom were different as adults: 1 talked, one was shy. 2 paragraphs about each one.
Page 10: Showed John loving to farm, and what he did when not in the courtroom.
Page 11: Showed Tom building his estate, and what he did when not in the courtroom.
Page 12: The first change in the plot: John and Tom were different but they had 2 things in common: They loved America and didn’t like George

So You Want to Be President (Humorous Lists)
Page 7: Introduction saying there are both good and bad things about being President
Page 9: Lists good things
Pages 10-11: Lists bad things
Page 12: The first change in the plot: Returns to theme: If YOU want to be President

Now, get your short outline (the pdf file) and brainstorm three details you want to include in your beginning that support what you wrote on the line about how the story will start. (If you like to write out a lot of information, go ahead and use the document file.)

If your mind is a blank, pick up some of the children’s books or adult reference books you have on your topic. Read over the pages that tell about that part you plan to include in your beginning. Spend a little bit of time digging around for ideas until you find at least three details you can add to your outline under the section for your beginning.

In my next post, I’ll explain how to fill in the details on your outline for the middle.


  1. I can’t believe I missed this post. I am so happy to have found it. Thanks, Nancy 😀

  2. Reblogged this on Why I Write Picture Books? (#YIWritePB) and commented:
    I am on this one week journey. I am in the research phase and found this post helpful. Thanks, Nancy :D. I am reblogging for others who want to take this journey with me.

    • Thanks for reblogging, Jackie!!!! And so excited for everyone joining in this fun journey.

      • I was working at home, but I was getting distracted. So I went to the library and I am in awe. Thanks for this challenge. I am hoping that completing this project with you, and taking Kristen’s class again, I should be fine this time around. My problem is, in doing the research, I find so many facts and it is hard for me to choose what to include and what to cut. I hope this will help me narrow my focus. Thanks again 😀

      • Glad you found a place that you can stay focused and motivated!

      • I did…thanks. 😀

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