How to Write a Children's Book
'How delightful it must be to write books after one's own taste instead of reading other people's,' said Gwendolyn.
'I would give anything to write a book.'
'And why should you not?' said Mrs Arrowpoint encouragingly. 'You have but to begin as I did. Pen, ink and paper are at everybody's command.'
So wrote George Eliot in Daniel Deronda, but it is not quite as easy as that. Before you embark on a children's book, there are several things to consider.
Writing fro Children for the Right Reasons
If you think that writing for children is a soft option, that it will be good practice for writing an adult book, this is not a good reason. A children's book can be more difficult to write than an adult book because you are more restricted by theme, vocabulary and length. When you have only 500 words in which to tell a story, as in a picture book, for instance, every word has to be the right word. Maurice Sendak, who won awards for his picture books, said that sometimes he rewrote the text 300 times to get exactly the right words.
- Write because you have a great idea you want to share with children.
- Only write what interests you. If you are bored with what you are writing, you can be sure your readers will lose interest too.
- Read as much as you can, especially current children's books, but don't neglect adult books; you need them to broaden your mind. Enid Blyton said, 'I read every myth and legend I could get hold of. If you want to be a writer you must read, read, read. Try everything, good, bad and indifferent. Sort it out in your own mind, form your taste and find your own bent.'
- Read good books to see how the author gets the effects you admire: read bad books to see what not to do!
- Find time to think, find time to write. Try to write every day to keep up momentum. Set yourself manageable targets. For instance, if you write 500 words a day, five days a week, you will have finished a 7,000 word series book in three weeks with time over!
- Always make a note of an important idea, thought, description or word in your notebook. You may think you will remember, but unless you make a note, you probably won't.
'The horror of that moment,' the White King says in Alice Through the Looking Glass, 'I shall never, never forget.'
'You will though,' replies the Queen, 'if you don't make a memorandum of it.'