Posted by: nancyisanders | May 2, 2016

NF PB Journey: Structure Your MS…The Beginning


For several upcoming posts we’re going to discuss the structure of the nonfiction picture books we’re writing with the goal of submitting specifically to Charlesbridge (and other publishers who accept unsolicited nonfiction picture book manuscripts).

Structure. When I sew baby quilts I follow a very specific pattern and structure to put each piece together. This summer, I’ll be getting 2 new baby nieces and 1 new grand baby. (Yes, I’m smiling!) So I’m working on more baby quilts right now. We’re talking structure!

Without structure, the quilt would be, quite frankly, a jumbled mess. So it is with picture book manuscripts.

Using our mentor text, DIRTY RATS?, let’s talk structure for our manuscripts as well. Plot structure.

We already talked about our beginning and our end.

DIRTY RATS? starts with a question. On the very last page of the main text, it repeats that question and then gives an answer based on what the readers learned from reading the book.

Let’s do the same.

Let’s start our manuscript with a question. Let’s end our manuscript by repeating the question and give the answer based on what we plan to write about.

Next let’s take a look again at the plot chart for DIRTY RATS? Notice that this chart is divided into a BEGINNING, a MIDDLE, and an END. (The middle is divided into two halves.)

For the BEGINNING of DIRTY RATS? the author repeats the question on the first 4 spreads (as a statement) with general (and very engaging!) facts to support these statements.

So here’s our assignment for today:

Write the first four spreads of our manuscript.

We’ll repeat our question about our topic (in some form) FOUR TIMES and provide engaging and general facts FOUR TIMES about our topic.

This will give us our BEGINNING from pages 2-9 of our manuscript.

Here’s a tip:

Since we’re following the structure of DIRTY RATS? so closely, type your manuscript in picture book format.

In other words, type it like this:






  1. Beautiful structured quilt. Great way to structure a nonfiction story. I used to make many quilts and now that I’m thinking of it, they do tie in with structure.Thank you again!

    • You’re welcome! And so glad to hear from a fellow quilter!

  2. Congratulations on the new babies coming into your life!

    I need structure – thanks for helping us to develop it in our writing.

    • Thanks for your well wishes. And so glad this is helping you with your writing!

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