Posted by: nancyisanders | May 9, 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book in 1 Week: Prep

ABC quilt HPIM8170

I’ve posted 2 calendars for you to print out and add to your Children’s Writer’s Notebook. One is a 1-week calendar that lists all the tasks we’ll be accomplishing each day. The second one is a blank 1-week calendar that you can use to rearrange these tasks to better fit your own personal schedule.

You’ll find both free calendars at the site of my writing buddies, Writing According to Humphrey and Friends.

Scroll down to the heading of CALENDARS.

Click on the links to print out

Take a peek at the calendar and see if you have any questions about it. Let me know here in the comments if you do.

Basically, we’ll be having 3 main writing sessions throughout the day. I often write best in the morning, so I like to have my first writing session before breakfast. My second writing session is in between breakfast and lunch. My third writing session is between lunch and dinner.

Feel free to tweak these three writing sessions to fit your own personal writing rhythm.

One other tool I’ve found essential when working on a tight schedule like the one on this calendar is a kitchen timer. Sometimes it’s so easy to get lost in research or brainstorming ideas. If I find myself meandering through the process and starting to lag behind, I grab my kitchen timer and set it. This helps me focus and work more diligently at each different task in a more timely manner. On many many projects I don’t need to use a kitchen timer. But when I’m working on a tight deadline for a publisher or for projects such as this one, a kitchen timer helps keep me on the right pace.

And before we get started, I want to take a minute to talk about health. If you want to be a career writer, your health is very, very important. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can get eyestrain, carpel tunnel, backaches and other aches and pains. Here are some tips based on things I actually do to maintain my health when writing full-time.

1. Do as many tasks AWAY from the computer as possible. Read research books and take notes in a spiral notebook for 45 minutes, then spend 15 minutes typing in all your notes on your computer. Write the first draft of each section each day in your spiral notebook and then type it into your computer. Print out a hard copy of your manuscript to read and edit by hand, then type those into the computer. This reduces eye strain, wrist strain, and back strain.

2. Sit in different chairs and different places as much as possible. I like to spend an hour typing at my desk, an hour with my feet propped up on my couch typing on my laptop, an hour reading research books in my recliner, and an hour at my dining table organizing plot charts. Then I’ll repeat and move all these different places again. All this helps with back and leg strain.

3. Take frequent breaks. Brainstorming ideas? Wash the dishes or weed the garden with your notebook by your side. Did it take you an hour to type in your bibliography on the computer? Take a fifteen minute break and clean the bathroom with your spiral notebook at your side to write down ideas that you’re thinking about. I try to take 15 minutes breaks every hour or so and do tasks that get me bending and stretching. This helps a lot.

Okay, are you ready? I’ll see you here, bright and early on Monday morning. Let’s goooooo! In the next 5 posts I’ll be sharing how to put this one-week calendar to work.


  1. I am having a hard time with my mentor text. I do have some books, but I am not sure if I will use it. However, I am here. I am ready. And I am so excited. Thanks for doing this. Good luck, everyone.

    • I’m glad you’re going forward even if you haven’t found the “perfect” mentor text. A mentor text is just to guide you and give you an example to follow of word usage and plot structure and voice. In the end, I chose 3 mentor texts to use: one for voice, one for plot structure, and one for how it handled my subject matter. All three are simply a guide to help me along the path of writing my own picture book.

      • The problem is my subject have never been done before. My subject was briefly mentioned in a book that was published last year, but nothing before that.

    • Oh, and another thing that will help with mentor texts, Jackie, is to go to a local children’s bookstore and read 10 current picture books. Go about once a week until you have a nice collection of current children’s picture books that you have read. Of course, you can’t do this now, but do it this summer and then you’ll have a much wider range of mentor texts to choose from from the favorites you read.

      • I have 41 now. The question for you is, all the books I have, have word counts way over 800-words. I am having a hard time finding text with 800 words or less for nonfiction.

      • If you are finding publishers who are currently doing nonfiction picture books of more than 800 words, just follow their word count. But a nonfiction picture book like Dave the Potter (424 words) is a great example of a very short word count.

      • I will check that out. Thanks.

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