A Note about Notes

One of the things I’m asked most often at conferences is whether a picture book author should include illustration notes in a manuscript. This seems to really vex some people. The problem with illustration notes is if we say it’s ok to use them, then people tend to abuse them, including levels of detail that are completely irrelevant to the story and bind the illustrator’s hand (and creativity). So here are some answers for you.

Q: Should I include illustration notes in my manuscript?

A: No.

Q: But what if  I need to make something clear that the text isn’t showing?

A: If there is no other way to know, and it’s vital to the story, then include some stage directions. You know, like in a script. But you have to promise it’s essential.

Q: And what if I want the illustrator to know my character has curly hair?

A: Your character does not have curly hair unless the illustrator decides she does. Your character might end up being an elephant. Deal.

Q: But she lives in a red house and that matters because her favorite color is red.

A: Are you sure it’s that important? You’re wrong. It’s not.

Q: But what if

A: No.

Q: But

A: We’re done. [exit stage left]



  1. Mina Witteman · December 11, 2015

    Love this one, Heather. It’s a question that comes up very often. I’m happy I can now refer PB writers to your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. M. S. Aarons · December 11, 2015

    Dripes! (smacks forehead) … I sent you a MS with notes. All the more reason why this blog is so useful for us aspiring authors! Thanks😊


  3. Darshana · December 12, 2015

    That was funny and to the point! Thanks!


  4. Diana Toledano · December 12, 2015

    Hahaha. I’m an illustrator and I second this completely!


  5. rsonenshine · December 12, 2015

    Love it, Heather! Thanks. 😉


  6. Barbara DiMarco · December 13, 2015

    Well, thanks for taking the pressure off…I’m really really fine about this.


  7. Megan Forward · January 16, 2016

    I like collaboration so the more ideas the merrier. At this stage anyway.


  8. Toni Dietkus · January 23, 2016

    I couldn’t believe this was true when I first heard [recently]…However upon editing my story minus those bits, I was equally shocked to see that it WAS the same story without those [oh so important] details!


  9. Pingback: Picture Book Writing: How Much Detail | One Writer's Journey
  10. Pingback: Illustration Notes: To Include Or Not To Include… | johnell dewitt

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