So you’ve had a great idea for a children’s book. Fantastic! It’s original, never-been-done-before and unique? Awesome! So now you’ve got to write it. Erk. How do you go from a great idea to a ready-to-submit story? Well, it is not easy. Even with a brilliant idea, if you and your story don’t follow some basic rules, then you’ll fall at the first hurdle. I’ve put together a few of these rules – I hope they help.
Rule 1 – Decide what age group you are writing for. Picture books are generally for age 7 and under – most of my books are for this age group. Chapter books for under 9s need to have short chapters suitable for reading as a bedtime story. Maxwell’s Mega Mission by Jayne Baldwin is an excellent example of this. Whatever age you decide on, knowing it will help you hugely with the complexity of your language and story.
Rule 2 – Once you have followed Rule 1, research your market. Read other books for your chosen age group – which ones do you enjoy and which ones could you read again and again without going around the twist? There is a wee boy I know who loves Big Bill so much that his dad pleaded for a sequel so that he had something new to read!
Rule 3 – Plan your story! I used to scoff at advice to plan first and write later, but with age comes wisdom, and now I always decide on the end of the story before I write it. It may seem obvious, but stories need a beginning, to introduce the characters and set the scene, a middle where the action happens, and of course an end where the story is wrapped up, in a satisfactory way.
Rule 4 – While writing your story, try a ‘less is more’ approach – ruthlessly edit and remove any extraneous words. Keep dialogue realistic: try saying it out loud – does it sound as if a real person would say it? Show not tell – pictures can tell parts of the story to reduce complexity and keep the story moving.
Rule 5 – This one is really important but not strictly to do with good writing. If you seriously want to be a published children’s author, it is really important to prospective publishers that you can host book events for children. I will be writing a blog on events soon, so suffice to say that you will be a more successful children’s author if you are good with kids and feel comfortable reading your stories and engaging with them in schools, nurseries, libraries, book festivals and other promotional opportunities. Mention your skills and engaging with an audience will definitely make a publisher consider your submission more favourably.
There’s a lot more I can and probably will say about this subject in the future, but for the moment we’ll leave it there – get writing!