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April 03, 2014

Children’s Books (How to Write)

C is for Children's Books (How to Write)

Everyone wants to write a children’s book. Don’t they? If you are one of them, I am offering 10 ½ tips to help you write a children’s book.

1.    Capture a Spark!

First, you’ll need a story idea. Maybe you already have one. Maybe you like the thought of writing a children’s book someday, but you don’t have an idea yet. That’s okay! Once you get an idea, which can be as simple as a child going to school, you can begin writing your story.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, an idea for a story can come from anywhere. I’ve written a children’s story (not published) which was inspired by a fly. Yes, a fly. My mom has written a series of children stories and it all started with pea soup. Yes, pea soup. So be on the lookout for an idea. It could be anywhere! 

2. Read as many children’s books as you can get your hands on!

Reading children’s books can help you understand the language you need to use and popular themes.

3.    Know what age group you want to write for.

Children’s books range from one word on each page to chapter books, so do research to find out what age group your story idea and writing ability would better suit.

4. Create your characters.

Even a children’s book needs a main character and minor characters. The great thing about children’s books is that a character can be an animal or even a teddy bear.
See: Writing About: Children for more tips on this.
5.  Pick a setting.

This can be the child’s house, a classroom, or a magical realm.

6. Write out the plot.

Children’s stories don’t need to be complicated. You don’t need several plot events. All you need is the central conflict (a problem the boy/girl need to fix or a struggle he/she has to overcome), rising action which leads to the climax (the turning point) and finally the resolution (the end).

7.  Now write your story!

Beware that your sentence structure and length fit the age group you are writing for. For instance: for children five and younger, don’t use as many commas and keep the sentences shorter than you would while writing for older audiences. Simplicity is key for young children.
Tip #1: Cut out unnecessary adjectives and adverbs. Oh sure, they can still be in there, but you don’t want to clutter your sentences with them.   
While you’re writing, think like a kid. Add whacky bits you would never dream of including in your adult novels. You can get away with it here, so infuse humor into your story if you can. Children love nothing more than to laugh. Go ahead . . . you have permission to be silly!
Tip #2: Write in rhymes. Children adore rhymes even if you don’t. (I noticed all the finalists for the 2013 Cheerios Spoonful of Stories competition all rhymed.) But you definitely don’t have to write in rhymes. A story can be great without it. 
Tip #3: Try to include a positive message, if you can. In “Come Back Dear Sun” by Geena Bean she wrote about the importance of playing outside instead of staying hooked up to computers and video games all the time.
Tip #4: Teach them! You can share facts about the world, nature, and animals that they wouldn’t know otherwise.
8. The End

Make sure the end fits with the rest of your story and doesn’t end abruptly. I hate that in adult stories, so kids can hate it in their stories too!

9. Edit

Take a short break after you finish writing then edit your children’s book as you would edit a novel. Cut out extra words that don’t need to be there, fix grammar and spelling errors, and check for plot holes.

See: How to Edit a Book for more help on this.
10.     Test

Read your story to children you know and see how they react. Then give it to adults and ask what they would think about reading your story to their kids. Take what they say and see if you can apply it to your story, but remember . . . you can’t please everyone. Do what can improve your story and then give it a rest!

10  ½. Publish

This tip is 10 ½ because it’s not a tip on how to write a children’s book, but it is the next step you should take.

There are many options you can take when publishing a children’s book. You can self-publish, send to agents who can help you publish your story traditionally, or submit it to children’s magazines.

Good luck and have fun!

SHARE: Your tips for writing children’s books.

QUESTIONS: Have you written a children’s book? How did you do it? 
What is your favorite children's book?

Mine will always be Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman

A to Z Blogging Challenge: 

A: Author Photo Tips
B: Boost Your Writing Brain Power


L. Diane Wolfe said...

You have to really love children and children's books to write effectively. Everyone thinks it's easy, but it's a really tough genre.

Julie Flanders said...

Buzz the Fly is so cute! I bet your nephews love it.
I've had some ideas for children's books but have never really tried to act on them. Will have to keep these tips in mind if I ever do. :)

L.G. Keltner said...

I've heard so many people say that writing children's books sounds easy, but it isn't. You've offered a great list of tips. I've never written a children's book, but if I ever do, I'll follow your advice!

Chrys Fey said...

A lot of people really do think it's easy because children's stories are short and the sentences are sometimes simple, but it takes a lot of work to get it right. Thank you for your comment, L. Diane!

Chrys Fey said...

Thank you, Julie! My nephews got a real kick out of Buzz the Fly. My oldest nephew, who will be 8 in June, can read it all by himself, which is amazing since he was 5 when I first wrote it for him and his brother. :)

Chrys Fey said...

It's really not easy. I've only written the one (Buzz the Fly) and I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to write another because it takes a different mindset than I am used to when I'm writing.

I hope my advice helps you whenever you try to write one, L.G.! :)

David P. King said...

Awesome tips. I don't know if I'll every do picture books, but I'll be sure to keep these ideas in mind. Hey, if Weird Al can do it ... :)

Roland D. Yeomans said...

C S Lewis felt children books should be written in a way that adults would enjoy them, thus keeping them from sounding as if they were talking down to kids -- who really that tone of voice in prose or speech. :-)

ilima said...

I want to write a book for young children some day. I tried a middle grade but it was so hard. YA seems to be where I do best. One day, though...

Stephanie Bird said...

Thanks a lot for posting this. I am writing YA and find that your advice also resonates with what I'm doing to a certain extent. Very helpful, useful advice!

Unknown said...

I like to be silly with kids. I might just do one for my kids using your steps. I'll let you know how it turns out.:-)

Crystal Collier said...

Love it! I've written a couple children's books, but I'll never publish them. They were just for fun. I do have one I may put out there one day, because it's educational and funny. I think 2nd grade teachers would really appreciate it.

Gregg Metcalf said...

Excellent advice! I have never thought about writing a children's novel but you gave very good ideas. I especially like the one about verbosity, too many adjectives can spoil the stew. Thanks!

Chrys Fey said...

Thank you, David. I'm sure you could do it if you set your mind to it. :)

Chrys Fey said...

C S Lewis is right! :)

Chrys Fey said...

And one day you will, Ilima! :)

Chrys Fey said...

You're welcome, Stephanie! It makes me so happy that you're able to use these tips for your YA book. :)

Chrys Fey said...

Excellent! I'll love to find out how you do, but I just know it will be hilarious. :)

Chrys Fey said...

I wouldn't mind publishing Buzz the Fly in dedication to my nephews, but it'll be my only one, I think.

Funny and educational is the best way to go with children's books.I bet your story is fantastic! :D

Chrys Fey said...

Thank you, Gregg! Too many adjectives certainly can spoil the stew. (I love that, by the way.) And you're very welcome. :)

kate n said...

I used to tell my sister stories when she couldnt sleep (she is 2 years older than me) about a girl called Lucy, I guess I thought one day I would write them properly, but I remember even at the time that it was really hard to do. But its on the bucket list and this post is full of good advice that I definitely need. Thank you.

Magaly Guerrero said...

I wrote two children's books while I was in college. It was fun, and difficult.

My latest favorite book in the genre is Blueberry Girl, by Neil Gaiman. Love it!

My Fiction and Poetry Site
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J.H. Moncrieff said...

I've had an idea for a series of children's books for a long time. This is the year I finally intend to write book one!

Thanks for the tips. Very helpful.

Chrys Fey said...

I hope one day you can write that story about Lucy, Kate! :)

Chrys Fey said...

Fun and difficult sums up what it's like writing a children's book. lol

I will have to read that book. Thank you, Magaly! :)

Chrys Fey said...

I also have an idea for a series of children's books, too, but I want to write them with my mom and we never seem to have the time.

Good for you, Holli! I know book one will be brilliant. :)

Carol Apple said...

You make it sound so easy Chrys. I like the idea of writing in rhyme and may try it just for fun. I have some ideas for non-fiction books for kids and perhaps historical fiction.Thanks for the inspiring tips!

Chrys Fey said...

I don't mean to make it sound easy, because it's certainly isn't, but it's not impossible.

I encourage you to write a rhyming book for children, Carol. Even if it is just for fun. Non-fiction and historical fiction books for kids is very important. I'm sure your ideas are amazing. :)

T. Powell Coltrin said...

These are great tips for sure.

Carrie-Anne said...

I used to make picture books all the time when I was just a child myself, but almost all of them are long gone, put out as recycling when my family left New York in 1996 and my mother didn't think we had room in the moving truck for all those years of my early writing and drawing. As an adult, I created two picture books for education classes I took. One was for my special ed class, The Story of a Bengali Boy, about a child in the ESL program, and the other resurrected some of my earliest characters, identical twins Easter and Echo. That was a final project for a class about early childhood and how to take care of infants and toddlers in a daycare setting.

Yanting Gueh said...

The lesser the words, the more difficult it is to write. I've written both picture books and a MG novel and though the research in the latter takes a longer time, the difficulty in writing (and leaving out words) in the former is much more challenging.

Unknown said...

I know this topic all too well. Reading other children's stories definitely helps to give an author an idea of what kids are reading and have read over the years. For me, I love rhyme and find it easier to make up plots and fun lines through this technique. It's also good to take some children's book writing classes just to freshen up on your own style. Editing is also key here because a lot of times, you can cut the picture book down to minimal words in order to still get the point across. You never want a story to drag on and you want the child to anticipate each turning of the page.
Great post, Chrys!

Chrys Fey said...

Thank you, Teresa!

Chrys Fey said...

I moved a lot as a child too and ended up throwing out a lot of things that now I wish I still had.

Bravo to you for writing two books for your classes, Carrie-Anne! Educational children's books are the best. :)

Chrys Fey said...

Brilliantly put, Claudine. "The lesser the words, the more difficult it is to write." I couldn't have put that better myself. And it's very true! Writing is an art, but writing for children is a master art.

Chrys Fey said...

Yes, you do, Gina. :)

Classes to help you learn how to write for children is a great idea!

Well said about the editing. Editing is always important even for children's books.

Thank you, Gina! :)

Kristen said...

I've been seriously considering it. I've written a couple of children's stories, one of which is featured every now and then on Yahoo. The other was my mother's favorite, so I reprinted it on a card for a friend at her baby shower. I replaced the girl's name with the name of her boy and made the necessary changes. She read it to everyone, and I got lots of praise. I'm just worried I can't write anything that good again!

Random Musings from the KristenHead — C is for 'Copper' and Cats (and More Cats)

Chrys Fey said...

Congratulations for being feature on Yahoo! I'm sure you can write a lot of stories as good as those. Give it a shot. You may be surprised. And good luck! :)