How to Write a Children’s Book

Writing a book for kids

You might think, “How fun! I am going to write a book for children!”

Well, you’re right. It can be a lot of fun, but it can also be tough work, demanding and very competitive.

So what are the basics for writing a book for children?

Know your audience
First of all, decide whom you are writing for. This is most easily achieved by targeting a specific age group. Usually picture books are aimed at the 2 to 7 year-old group. You will then find chapter books for the 7 to 10 age group. Once you decide who your reader is, then you really need to start thinking like a kid and trying to see the world through a child’s eyes.

Spend time around kids in the age group you are targeting. Look at how they handle books. Pay attention to what surprises them and what they find funny or scary. Re-read your favorite books from your childhood but also read new ones. This is all part of your research that will help make your book more marketable.

Also, don’t forget that you are writing for kids, but also for parents. Since parents will be doing most of the reading or – in the older-aged kids group – most of the buying, in order to make sure your book ultimately sells it not also has to be a fun read but also be in line with the values of modern-day parents.



Tell ‘em the truth and keep ‘em guessing

Young readers can also appreciate a story that comes straight from the heart. Be willing to draw from experiences from your childhood and use them to make the story and characters easier to relate to and more honest.

Just because your readers are young, that does not mean you can skimp on the essential elements of your story: your plot must be a good one, where your main character has a clear motivation and is supported by other equally-rich characters that help add depth to the story. The structure of the story mush be clear and the resolution often entails a happy-ending that will leave kids with a smile.

One thing you can play with is the addition of surprises at the turn of the page in order to add some drama to your story. This is a typical element of a picture book that weaves in nicely when you add pictures that help increase the expectation of what is coming on the next page.

Finally, do not waste your readers’ short attention span by going into too many details about characters or settings. Try to get into the action and the dialogue of your scenes without further ado and get rid of extra words that do not add to the plot.

You are not alone
If you are writing a book for children you will most definitely be working with an illustrator. This partnership becomes especially important when writing a picture book for younger children. Remember, a picture book usually averages about 1000 words, many times a lot less. The rest of the spaces in the book should be filled with wonderful illustrations that help bring your story and characters to life.

Don’t think that since you are writing the story and not illustrating it that you can forget altogether about the pictures. In order to have images that support the story you must give the illustrator sufficient details about what is going on in the scene that corresponds to the page. What is the character experiencing? What does he/she look like? What is his/her overall attitude and demeanor?

Hopefully, the success of your book will be the result of a team effort where the author – you -, the illustrator, the editor, and the art director, can all agree on what will work best to make your book a hit.

Be silly!
One of the best things about being a kid is to live in the land of endless possibilities. No monster could ever be too hairy, no duckling too ugly, and no planet too far. Your characters could look like nothing you’ve ever seen and still be part of a credible story.

The same goes for the story. You can put those characters in the craziest and most silly situations you can think of and still make the plot work (if you are smart, don’t stray from the successful traits of basic story-telling and make the kids fall in love with the characters).

How does it sound?
Finally, don’t forget to read your book aloud. Children’s books need a particular rhythm that can only be discovered when read aloud. Since most are books that are meant to be read aloud anyway, this will give you clues as to how well your story flows, whether or not your surprises and jokes pack the punch you had intended, and if you are achieving the drama or suspense you were aiming for.

And don’t forget to add: THE END

Useful resources:

Top 100 Children’s Books of All Time

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

Filed in: Writing Your Book

One Response to “How to Write a Children’s Book”

  1. sofia
    November 20, 2013 at 3:58 pm #

    thank you, this post is top notch!

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