Writing a book for children is not much different than writing for adults. A children’s book also requires all the main components of a successful grown-up book- good story, interesting characters, and a great ending. However, to write a GREAT children’s book- the kind that children love now and remember later, and parents approve of (and likely sneak a read when the kids aren’t watching) – takes a bit more effort.
Here are some tips on how to write a great children’s book:
1. Know Your Audience:
The children’s book market primarily consists of three categories according to age levels.
• Early level books for ages 3-8
• Middle grade books for ages 8- 12
• Teen or Young Adult books for ages 12 and above
You need to decide early on which level your book is going to be, as children’s book publishers have fairly strict guidelines for each category. The middle grade and teen (or young adult) books do have some level of overlap and flexibility. Keep your content age appropriate, and of definite interest to that age group. For example, 12 year olds might not find burping or falling down funny, but these are usually hilarious to the 3- 8 age children.
2. Familiarize Yourself with What Children Like:
This is extremely important for anyone aspiring to write for children. Read as many books as possible in the category you choose, and learn what makes a book successful with both publishers and children. Some topics are always popular with kids- adventures, fantasy tales, and animal stories, to name a few.
3. Use a Proper Voice:
This is the make-or-break factor for most children’s books. Most of the time, adults write books that ‘talk down’ to children, or worse, sound like an adult pretending to be a kid. Do write your book in simple and clearly understood language. But avoid over-simplifying concepts or over-explaining things; children like to figure things out, and do not like being patronized.
4. Follow The Rules:
There are some simple but essential dos and don’ts for the children’s book market, so keep these in mind while writing your book.
• Do write about children. Even if your book is an animal story, have a child in the story as a main character.
• Do make the ending a happy one. Good guys should always win, bad guys should go to jail, and animals or people should never die in children’s books.
• Do use great visuals, pictures and photos in your book, if possible.
• Do use humor, magic, fantasy, action and adventure in your book (any or all of them!).
• Don’t have parents or authority figures feature prominently in the story. You can have an adult or two as secondary characters, but it is important to keep them in the background (kids really don’t want to read about adults!).
• Don’t hide any religious, political, or moral messages in the book. Both children and parents will find this irksome.
• Don’t preach, lecture or instruct when you are trying to write an entertaining children’s book.
5. Have a Great Plot:
Children love books that they get drawn into immediately, and they do not have the patience or the attention span to wade through pages of great prose to figure out what’s going on. Possibly more important for a children’s book than for grown-ups is a great, snappy plot that really hooks the readers in to the story right away, and keeps them engrossed till the end of the book. Be creative and inventive, and challenge children to think differently, and to be continually surprised.
Ultimately, write honestly and write from your heart. It helps to remember your childhood experiences, and the things you liked and enjoyed. Try to write the kind of stories that used to take you to happy and magical places, far away from school, homework, and parental lectures.
Image credit: Pratham Books on flickr and reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://writingtipsoasis.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/CS_Rajan.jpg [/author_image] [author_info]CS Rajan is a freelance writer who loves to write on various topics, and is currently working on her first novel. [/author_info] [/author]