Picture Book Pace: Verbal & Visual Tools for Writers, by Jodelle Sadler

When a writer is looking to share the emotional intensity of her story and fill it with heart, she only needs to investigate a powerful, one-syllable word: Pace. Pacing presents the kind of magic every manuscript needs. When it comes to picture books, the art and words must gel, and pacing is a fabulous tool.

Pacing moves the story in a picture book. It’s the rate the writer reveals the story to the reader. With careful pacing, writers can pull back or zoom in close, slow down or speed up as necessary to reveal the relevant details of a story. Often, writers stop the action of a story to allow the art to carry the story. One thing is sure, great pacing may catapult a writer’s manuscript to a whole new level of Wow!

Good pacing makes or breaks a story. A slow or monotonous pace kills a story. And a well-paced picture book invites the reader in—even reluctant ones—again and again. Writers who hone pace enough may even invite readers in by creating an interactive or guessing game.

When considering pace, the writer chooses words purposefully. When one word may elate us, or break our heart, the selection and placement of each word becomes crucial. Words, rhythm, repetition, details, white space, page turns and art of a story matter and must work together to support a story’s theme. Every thing should contribute to pace.


In Looking for a Moose, Phyllis Root paces through her infectious language fun. As four children’s and a dog journey through the woods, swamps, bushes and hilltops in search of a moose, they discover Root’s love of adventure, the great outdoors, and language.

Root’s adventure begins with a question. “Have you ever seen a moose—a long-leggy moose—a branchy-antler, dinner-diving, bulgy-nose moose?” This line, its sound and word fun galore, makes the reader want to hear it again.

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