Writing Children’s Books is Harder Than You Think

You’ve probably noticed that topics come in waves–we hear about something for a while, then something else takes it place. And so it is in book publishing.

We’ve received numerous calls from authors writing children’s books in the past few weeks. During our conversations, it often becomes apparent the writer has a story idea, so what does the writer need to do to get started?

The first thing I ask them is what age group are they writing for. They typically aren’t sure, but they know they need an illustrator. So we discuss ways to find an illustrator.

Then I ask them about the storyline. They typically have a moral to the story that Mom and Dad (or some adult in the story) teach the child.

At this point I know the writer doesn’t know much about writing for children. As one editor from a children’s publishing house told me, “There’s too much adult in the children’s stories submitted to us.” When asked to say more, she said, “The adults have all the knowledge, and the adults solve all the problems. In children’s books, the kids should make the discoveries and should figure out how to solve the problems, not the adults.”

I’ve taken her comments a step further and told children’s book writers to “Think Charlie Brown cartoons.” We never see an adult. We don’t even hear what the adults are saying–they only say “Wah, wah, wah, wah.” The kids have all the experiences and do the  learning, creating, solving, etc. And that’s as it should be in children’s books. Kids should be encouraged to think and participate.

Add that children’s books are age specific, and children’s book writers face another issue–word choice. The words need to be age-appropriate. Even if Mom and Dad are reading the book to the child, the words used should be words the child understands.

It’s normal to think  writing children’s books is easy. It is not. Every word counts, and it counts from the perspective of the child, not the adult.

Writing children’s books is harder than you think, but if you do it well, you may change a young life by planting seeds that blossom into a long life of loving reading.

Happy writing!


6 Responses to “Writing Children’s Books is Harder Than You Think”

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