How To Write Your First Children’s Book – 10 Steps To Success
The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted all job sectors, both formal and informal. Even before the crisis, global unemployment was already at 190 million. With the Covid-19 outbreak, the number of job losses would be equivalent to 195 million.
Such job disruptions have forced people to look for alternatives to survive in such dismal times. Thousands have set up small businesses for selling essential items, while many have embraced alternative career options to start from scratch, just like Dr. Jasmine Killibrew.
Killibrew, like thousands of others, lost her job due to the sudden school closure. To fight against the odds, she focused on using her passion for writing to connect with young minds. She wrote ‘There is a Girl Headed to the White House’ during the pandemic and sold 5000 copies since it was published.
Sometimes in life, we get so engrossed in chasing career goals that we tend to forget about our passion and talents. In times such as now, each of us must create opportunities for survival rather than only relying on finding a suitable job.
If you are passionate about writing and have always dreamt of seeing yourself as a children’s book writer, now is the time to unleash the storyteller in you.
Well, I have the perfect tips to help you get started with your dream project.
10 Surefire Writing Tips For Your First Children’s Book
Tip 1: Identify your target readers:
Now that you have decided to write a children’s book, the first thing that you must do is define your target audience. Children’s reading abilities vary by age, so your writing style should fit your targeted age group.
For instance, if you target young children aged between 2 to 6, you must consider the number of words and pictures you will use. While most writers target all age groups while writing a children's storybook, I advise everyone to select a specific age group and write for them.
Tip 2: Choose an appealing theme:
The theme of the story plays a vital role in the success of your book. To find the perfect theme, understand what’s important for your target audience. You cannot write about the struggles of a teenager for nursery children.
Hence, do your research and find answers, such as:
- What stories interest them?
- What situations do they connect with?
- Which cartoon characters or fictional characters do they find inspiring?
- What characters do they like?
- How is your theme different from others?
Once you get these answers, it will become easier for you to develop a relatable theme.
Tip 3: Develop your story:
A distinctive story sets you apart from the rest right away. You cannot merely write about a girl who goes to school, listens to her teachers, does her homework, and goes to sleep on time. It's a regular timetable of a child, not a bedtime story.
Focus on creating a clear beginning, a specific peaking point, and a clean ending without any cliffhangers. Don't confuse the young readers with unnecessary twists and turns. While developing the main plot, remember to throw light on a few crucial elements:
- Main challenges the character encountered
- Lessons the character learned
- The significant take away from the story
Tip 4: Be subtle yet authoritative:
Don’t be preachy with your writing. Just because you want to put across an idea doesn’t mean you have to sound serious and bossy. The primary aim of your book is to make reading a fun ride for your young readers. It should encourage them to develop a good habit without losing the fun quotient.
Even if you want to teach the readers a valuable life lesson, maintain a subtle tone. Children tend to remember things that are fun and not too "in your face."
Tip 5: Show it with pictures:
Maintain a balance between words and pictures. Children enjoy colourful illustrations alongside the story and take inspiration for drawing.
Besides, a good balance of texts to images can improve a child's reading experience and boost engagement. Don't drag the story unnecessarily with complex expressions, terms, and other distracting elements.
Ideally, a children’s book with pictures ranges between 50-1000 words. So, stick to your story and keep the number of characters limited so you can give more attention to each one of their experiences, just like Winnie the Pooh and his friends. If possible, trying rhyming – it would definitely get them hooked!
Tip 6: Develop a unique main character:
If you Google the best children's books and read some of them, I bet you will find unique characters in each of them. They are funny, kind, naughty, quirky, and sound different from the rest of the characters.
Create a main character that is distinguishable and feels natural. Hence, learn about:
- His or her desire and life goals
- Best and worst habits
- Extrovert or introvert
- Unique dialects or words
- Brave or coward
- Favourite pet
- Happiness/sadness factors
Tip 7: Don’t rush with your writing:
Again, crafting a good children's book is not everyone's cup of tea. You have to give your maximum effort just you would with a novel for grown-up readers. If you think you can complete a children's book while travelling home from work, you are sadly mistaken.
I will give you the same advice I give to students who request me “please help me write my paper”- give time to your writing.
A children's book takes time, effort, and lots of editing to get it right. You need to review the story, maintain an authoritative voice without going blunt, use powerful words, pick out the best pictures, and consider many other aspects to come up with a masterpiece. Don't aim to finish the story if you want to leave a long-lasting impression on your readers.
Tip 8: Create a unique story:
If you want the targeted readers to come back to your book every night before dozing off, be unique with your tale.
You have to give something that makes your book stand out from the rest. Understand the types of books available in the market, books the children in your family read, and analyse how your book is better, if not different from those.
You can make use of any human emotion to connect with your readers. For instance, while writing a book for children aged between 8-10 dealing with school hardships, research and create stories with characters coping with troubles and overcoming them.
Such stories will help the readers to relate to the character and take adequate steps to overcome those challenges.
Tip 9: Rope in the right publisher:
If you don’t want to self-publish your book, do careful research to find the right publisher from this genre. I know being a newbie, this process may get intimidating to a lot of you.
But one way to find suitable publishers is to look for the publishing house or literary agents that publish similar books like yours. Before you send your query letter, make sure you have edited and proofread your manuscript. If your copy fails to meet the publishing house's standards, it will be rejected.
Also, beware of scams. Many so called "publishers" charge to publish and offer a minimal amount as profit. Go with reputable companies to avert unfavourable scenarios with your first book.
Tip 10: Find a budget-friendly illustrator:
Don't try your hands in illustrating if you have no prior experience in it.
All publishing companies have their in-house illustrators. Collaborate with them for your book. Generally, an illustrator charges close to $150 per illustration. So, sit with your illustrator and carefully plan out to curtail excess costs.
The Covid-19 pandemic has turned everything topsy-turvy, but it's on us to create opportunities and overcome the challenges. Just like Dr. Jasmine Killibrew, you too can bring your passion for writing to life and turn it into your source of bread and butter.
However, writing a children's book is a lengthy process. Don't give up if you come across a few hurdles. Just remind yourself why you want to do it in the first place and how you aim to enhance young readers' lives. Trust me, with determination and 100% time and effort, you too can create a masterpiece. Good luck!