Language in picture books is just as important as illustrations. The words play in the air as they are read aloud and make the storyline dance. Unlike a lot of fiction genres, picture book texts must be designed to be heard. The tiny ears in the audience want language that is fresh, crisp, and fun when appropriate.
Don’t worry about having perfect language when you are first drafting your story. Just get your story down. After you finish, and after each round of revision, read your manuscript out loud. Focus on how the words deliver.
Ask yourself these questions:
The biggest challenge when cultivating great language is that people read stories aloud differently. Some people will put emphasis on one word and some on another. This can be frustrating when you’re trying to intentionally create a rhythm or have specific words stand out. The best way to address this is to have other adults read the story to you while you take notes. You could also ask them to record a video of them reading and send it. This helps if they live far away and also allows you to listen the replay.
Language is something I personally rework over and over in each round and continuously tweak. If I’ve read it so many times that I can’t hear the distinctions anymore, I will record myself reading and listen to the recording.
Every manuscript you write, you will improve with your language. The more you write, the more you will improve. So get those hands and ears ready and get to writing!