Children’s fiction has held an important and unique place amongst books. Kids are curious and always learning something new, books are one of the many ways they satisfy this curiosity. Parents are also looking to develop in children a life-long reading habit, develop thinking and creative skill besides helping to build new ways of learning for their children, books can fulfil this need. A writer of children’s books should help achieve a parents’ ambition for their child through books. For this to happen, some guidelines must be kept in mind.
Tips For writing a Children’s Book:
1. Choose a target audience
It’s not enough to write for ‘kids.’ Your challenge will be to satisfy the parent and the child. A parent will have a significant role in choosing a book until the child is 10-12 years old. After 15, the child is the main decider of which books they would like to buy and read.
A children’s writer will have to remember that kids are in the process of growing and learning, therefore at different periods of their life, what stimulates them and satisfies their curiosity will be different. The target audience for books with texts ranges from 12 months/1-year old onwards. At one year, the kids are made familiar with alphabets and go up to 14-15, when kids read more complex texts for analysis in school. Your choice of words, expression, and even story will be affected by who you choose as a target audience. Here is a simple and useful guide for a writer of a children’s book to figure out what kinds of books are appropriate for which age group and how many words they should contain:
- For very young children (ages 0 to 5)– Picture Books and Board Books work the best
- Early Picture Book Length: 200 to 750 words
- Early readers (ages 5 to 7) progress onto books with short amounts of text on each page and some can read books with simple books with chapters. They’re still picture-driven, but they need less picture support and are familiar with a more extensive reading vocabulary.
- Older Picture Book Length: 500 to 1000 words
- Simple Chapter Book Length: 3000 to 10000 words
- Young readers read simple chapter books aimed at children ages 7-12 moving on to fewer picture-driven books.
- Chapter Book Length: 10,000 to 30,000 words
- Young Adult (YA) fiction is the realm of children aged 13 and older, touching on themes that specifically affect teenagers.
- Book Length: More than 30,000 words
2. Be creative
Kids are interested in stories that do not hold back on imagination. Prioritise originality over genre and only sprinkle factual details, as kids are more likely to be impressed by the creativity. Check out books by Dr Seuss for creativity and imagination and Sheetal Durve.
3. The main character
Develop the main character with care. The best children’s books have a main character who is unique, quirky and funny. If he looks like or talks like any other child, it does not arouse the reader, e.g. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Happy Potter.
4. Start your story quickly
The story should grab the child’s attention very quickly. A survey of successful children’s books has shown that 98% have the story starting within the first 1 to 3 pages. Long descriptions of the setting, character, situation are off-putting for a child – the action must begin quickly to hold the reader’s attention.
5. The plot should be all about one main problem
The main character faces one main problem and they grapple with it throughout the book. It is critical to ensure that the problem is not solved easily or that the main character does not care enough about it. If the book has to be engaging for a reader, it should present many obstacles the main character has to overcome. They should be close to giving up when suddenly the clouds clear and the problem is solved! At this point, all the tension is released and the story should end quickly.
6. The title should jump out of the book
Make sure that the title is full of action or mystery, which provokes a childs’ curiosity and leaves the reader guessing. Long descriptive titles are boring and a no-no.
7. Keep some elements educational but do not preach
Kids can spot a moral lesson from miles away. Focus on a fun story that kids can relate to, like routines from everyday life, with an imaginative twist (maybe their toys start talking, etc.). It’s best not to narrate in a tone that seeks to teach the kids something. Since parents buy the books, you will have to appeal to them with an element of learning. Children are sharp observers and learn fast, so if you want to offer a book that challenges their learning skills, do so by playing with language. Introduce a few words and concepts which make them think and also helps to expand their vocabulary. That way, not only will they learn new things, but they will also do so in a way that doesn’t feel like another day in school. Reading a book should essentially be fun!
8. Write a children’s book for listening
While the children will explore your book and its illustrations in their own time and by themselves, many children will like being read to. Keeping this in mind, make sure your sentences have words that flow well together. We suggest reading your sentences out loud. We also recommend putting in some rhymes and repetition to give a rhythm to your words.
Like any other writing project, writing a children’s book also takes practice. Carry a small notebook and write your observations about kids. Do not stick with the very first idea, play with different characters and see which one will work best for your story.
Share with us your thoughts and experience in writing stories for children.
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