Lots of people shrug and claim–“Oh, I’ll just write a children’s book for a little extra cash!”
Sounds like a good plan, huh? Well, not so fast.
The truth is, writing a good children’s book that gets published–let alone one that makes a positive impact on its young audience–is a really tough thing to do!
Children are the most impressionable people on Earth; shouldn’t the stuff you write for them be high-quality and enjoyable? Writing for children requires skill, tact, and lots of care.
If your heart is set on writing books for children–and doing it the right way–awesome! Here are 7 amazing tips to help you write children’s books the little tykes will love enough to save for their own children!
1. Know Your Audience
Before you can do much of anything else, you’ll need to decide what audience, exactly, you want to write your children’s book for.
When you’re writing books for kids, you’ll need to be a lot more specific when deciding your goals. Are you interested in writing illustrated books for new readers? Or are you hoping to publish middle-grade books for kids who are ready to start reading on their own?
Do your research–find what it is that interests you in writing children’s books and read the best ones out there for that age group. This will help you to establish an appropriate tone and style when you start writing.
2. Decide Your Purpose
While one of your major goals may be simply to write and publish a children’s book, this direction is usually not enough to propel most writers toward a great story.
You should take the time to decide whether your goals are more personal, or if your dreams consist more of New York publishers and movie deals. Ask yourself whether you’re writing a book with the purpose of showing it to the kids in your own life, or if you’ve got bigger dreams of seeing your book on many kids’ shelves.
The process of self-publishing a book for a personal audience is vastly different from publishing a children’s book the traditional way. Deciding your purpose in writing can help set you on the right track early on.
3. Choose an Important Theme
If you think back into all the great children’s books that have been read throughout generations, there’s usually a common thread linking these stories together–that is, an important theme.
Frog and Toad? 5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed? The Giving Tree? Each of these stories has stood the test of time because of the ways in which it weaves an entertaining story with important moral teachings.
Think about the things that impact our world today–racism, the definition of ‘family’, bullying, gender–can you build your story along one of these important themes?
4. Be Original
One of the most crucial aspects of writing a children’s book (or any sort of book!) for publication is a seemingly impossible task: Making your story Original–with a capital “O.”
Sure, your grandkids giggled themselves to death when you told them your story about the 3 little pigs who built houses from different materials–but wait…that story was a little familiar, right?
In order to get parents to pay for your books (and to a greater extent, get a publisher to pay the thousands of dollars to make your book come to life) your story needs to be new. It needs to be fresh, important, and highly original. It needs to be the next great thing.
5. Use Standard Literary Devices
Many people think to themselves, “Now, I never was a very good writer, but I bet I could write the best book for kids,” and that may be true! But 9 times out of 10, any book that’s written without careful use of literary devices is going to be…not great.
We’re talking about the ability to use sentence variation; to use descriptive imagery and to show your story, rather than explain it. The ability to construct a story with a clear beginning, middle, and end is important. Pacing, dialogue, and clever language will be needed for humor.
Just because you’re writing for children doesn’t mean you’re writing for an audience who can’t tell if you’re secretly a not-so-good writer. Even in children’s literature, it’s important to know what you’re doing and why.
6. Take Your Time
Another reason lots of people think it’ll be a good idea to write a book for kids is that they assume the process will be quick. After all, there are only so many words and pages kids will read, right?!
Well…maybe. But that doesn’t mean that a great children’s book has been or will ever be written overnight. If you’re thinking you can write a book during your kid’s nap time, then good for you! You’ve probably come up with a great first draft.
But the truth is, a really good children’s book almost always requires many, many drafts. It requires many sets of eyes to get it to its best possible point. It’s important that you slow down and take all the time you need so you can come out on the other side with a really strong, polished children’s book.
7. Ask a Kid!
If you’ve already written a first draft, then a third, then a fifth–if you’ve already given your manuscript to several colleagues and friends and fellow parents–but you’re still wondering, “Is this book good? Is it ready for me to start seeking publication?” it might be time to take the matter up with an actual, real-life kid.
Sit down with a child or a group of children. Read your book together. When it’s finished, have a discussion about their thoughts and reactions. Take notes. Really, really listen.
Remember the audience you took so much time to settle on? Now’s your chance to see how they like it, to make changes accordingly, and to ready your book for the masses.
Want More Tips on Writing for Children?
See: Writing for kids can actually be a really involved and complicated process! To get it right, you’ll need to work long and hard. You’ll need to do plenty of research into the existing books like the ones you want to publish and decide how you can best add to the genre!
Take your time with the writing process and write something you’re proud of that your kids will love!
If you’re looking for more information on kids’ books, or just want more tips on writing for children, check out our page!