Tips on Writing Children’s Books
by Classics author, and guest blogger, Tika Bernadette
Writing children’s fiction is a lot of fun, but it’s no easy task, in my opinion. As with any well-written literature, there are rules and standards that industry movers expect when reviewing literary work for children. If you wish to attract positive attention from editors, agents, publishers, educators and your target readers, there are some things you must take into serious consideration when creating your literary art for children. Here, I will share some pointers that I’ve learned along the way to conceptualizing, writing and publishing two books for children, with a third book set for release this year.
One simple rule for writing picture books is – Keep it simple. Let the pictures tell the story. Picture books are generally for babies and toddlers, with illustrations in place of text. Text, if any, is secondary to the illustrations and is no more than one word per picture, or two to three words per sentence, on average. The text, if any, is often choppy. And, the entire book is usually between 24 and 32 total pages.
Learn the categories of children’s books so you can be sure that you are writing for your target audience. As you have read above, many picture books are for babies and toddlers. There are also books for early readers. Readers in this group typically range from age four to age eight and are just learning to read and write. They are still thrilled with pictures, but are also fascinated with written words. Books for early readers have more printed words per page with fuller sentences, even when accompanied by illustrations. The storylines, while still simple, are more fluid and imaginative. At this point, a few challenging words have been incorporated into the text. Early readers are not as intimidated as you may think and desire to increase their vocabulary. Structurally, books for early readers are usually between 45-60 total pages and no more than 1,500 words. Then there are your intermediate readers. Readers in this group range from age eight through age ten. They are proud chapter books readers at this point. Chapter books usually contain 48 to 80 pages and between 1,500 to 10,000 words. These books tend to be thicker and have more sophisticated plots and themes. Another category in children’s book literature is the middle school reader. These readers are independent thinkers and are discovering themselves and beginning to pursue their own interests. They usually select books based on their own personal taste. Books for the middle school reader are usually 80 to 192 pages, with 20,000 to 45,000 words.
After middle school readers, we then go into young adult readers. We won’t speak about them today. Today, we are discussing literature for young children.
Study your target audience. Observe children’s habits, their movements, their language, their emotions, their follies, their antics. Tune in to their interests. Channel their energy and excitement through your work. Take your mind back to when you were that young. When you do so, you will find that you write on their level, but not down to them. They are intelligent creatures and learn quickly. They pick up on condescension and do not appreciate being talked down to.
Read your story out loud. Read to an audience of children before you send your work to an editor, agent or publisher. Get lots of feedback from parents, teachers and your target audience. Is your audience fully engaged? Ask for audience participation. You not only want to read your story aloud, you also want it to be interactive. You want your readers to be so enthralled that they desire to become part of the story themselves. Therefore, at some point during your reading, stop and ask your audience questions about what you’ve read so far. Bring them into the story.
- Writing Children’s Books by Lesley Bolton and Lea Wait
- Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul
- How To Write And Illustrate Children’s Books (And Get Them Published) by Treld Pelkey Bicknell and Felicity Trotman
Tika Bernadette is the author of Baby Love and Zuri and Friends Conquer the Mountain. You can buy her books on Amazon by clicking here.