When people find out I’m a children’s author, their response often goes something like this: “Oh, how fun! I have always wanted to write a children’s book.”
Writing a children’s book seems to be something on their bucket list‒like zip lining in the rain forest or sky diving on their 50th birthday. Writing for children is fun, but fun does not mean easy.
I often get emails from writers who ask me to critique their work, but most of what I see is not ready to send to a publisher. I see great ideas, but not great writing. Why? Because the writers haven’t taken the time to learn how to write for children or for publication.
If you want to write for children, here are a few tips on how to get started.
- Learn the genre and the sub-genres. Writing an engaging story with limited word count and limited vocabulary is difficult—even for seasoned writers. Then there are the sub-genres. From board books to early chapter books, and everything in between, each sub-genre has its own requirements that writers need to know.
- Become a student. Read and devour best-selling children’s books. Choose books that have stood the test of time. Read them over and over to get a feel for how these books are written specifically for children. Read books or articles on writing for children.
- Attend a writers’ conference. Writers’ conferences offer writing workshops as well as tons of information on writing and publishing. Most writers’ conferences allow writers to meet one-on-one with published authors or editors. You may also have an opportunity to have your work critiqued.
- Know the market. Before you invest your time and energy into writing a children’s book, you need to research the market to find out what’s already out there. What you write needs to be better than or different from what’s being sold, and it needs to fit a specific need in the market.
- Master writing techniques. Rhythm, rhyme, repetition, alliteration, onomatopoeia, and other forms of word play are effective tools for children’s stories. However, these writing techniques must be mastered to add creative elements to your story, or your manuscript will quickly end up in the slush pile.
- Write to engage the child. Today’s children are used to multi-sensory and interactive toys, so if the story does not engage the child, he or she will quickly lose interest. One of my latest books in Our Daily Bread for Little Hearts board book series is Adam and Eve’s 1-2-3s. On each page, the child is directed to touch and count the objects following the rhyming text. For example:
Five lazy lions are sleeping in the shade.
They rest in God’s big garden, beneath the trees He made.
Touch and count 5 lions.
- Spend time with children. If you want to write for children you need to know how they talk and think and what interests them. Have conversations with children. Get on your knees and view the world from their perspective.
- Have your story edited. Once you begin writing your story, work with a children’s editor or writing coach. Your story needs to be professionally written to catch the attention of a publisher. Be willing to accept constructive criticism and revise your manuscript multiple times.
Whether your stories get published or not, you can still share them. Volunteer to read your stories in local schools during “March is Reading Month.” Write stories about your childhood and share them with your children or grandchildren. I once read my children’s poems to a group of seniors at a nursing home. They were the best audience I’ve ever had! There are many ways God can use your writing to encourage and bless others. If God has given you a desire to write for children, learn the process, then write to please Him.
For more articles by Crystal, you can visit the Christian Children’s Authors website and blog.