How to Write a Children’s Book in 13 Steps (From a 70x Author)

Smiling French fry

In 13 steps, I will how you how to write a children’s book. I’m an author and illustrator of over 70 picture book titles as of writing this article. I might be able to pass along a few helpful tricks, especially for when that writer’s block is holding you back. Let’s get started with the list.

  1. Choose an idea. You likely have plenty of ideas, whether it be flying pink unicorns, muddy drifters or smiling golden French fries. Settling on an idea is half the battle. I use a spreadsheet to track every idea that pops into my head. It now has over 2,000 ideas for stories I could do! Where are you keeping track of your ideas? What one story can you work on today? Pick it and start the process! Resolve to agree with me that you are a children’s author today :)
  2. Consider your audience. This will affect how you write your work. Who are you writing for, besides yourself? If you are going after young toddlers, you’ll need to be sure that your vocabulary is aligned with their reading level. The interesting thing about children’s books is that you typically have two audience groups: parents and kids. This is why writing for these groups is a balancing act. Write too simply and you risk boring the parents. Write too complex and you risk boring the kids! This is why you need to ask for feedback from your audience. Find out what they’d love to read. It is helpful to consider keyword research in understanding what popular search terms there are for children’s books. At the moment, books about family pop up in search results, so there could be an opportunity to create something around that theme. As much as we’d all love to write what we want, it helps to see what our audience cares about too.
  3. Define your character(s). This is fun, you get to dream up characters that never existed before! Think about the journey and struggle this character is going through, as a way to pull the reader in through self-identification. These human characteristics are what bond the reader to the book.
  4. Outline roughly. Consider a hero's journey for flow. Now that you have an idea and main character in mind, you can start to round out the rest of the story. More secondary characters, adventures, scary villains/bosses/antagonists. The outline will make your flow of things much easier when it comes to the full-on writing process. We feel the resistance to writing because we likely need a rough outline to get us going. That momentum is what we need when the going gets tough creatively.
  5. Make notes for easier illustration. You should describe the scene, like a screenplay, in addition to what the words will be on the page. This will help you in the process of creating your illustrations later on. I will put an asterisk on this, because some authors I’ve talked to will illustrate first, write second. Whichever flow is right for you, I would say note-taking is important.
  6. Make it pop within the first three pages. You should do something that really wows the reader, and early on. Attention is limited, especially if you are dealing with younger kids. Make that impact to hook them in and deliver an unforgettable experience.
  7. Determine if you are educating or entertaining or both. Are you trying to teach a lesson with your book? Focus on education. Are you trying to make the reader laugh? Entertain. It certainly helps to focus on one, but if you have to break the rules, that’s okay too :) Don’t focus on educating if it comes off contrived. You don’t want to force a story by shoving a lesson in without authenticity or plot consistency.
  8. Write something more elaborate with your outline. Take that finished outline and make it a story! Figure out how each page should look in terms of the words on the page.
  9. Write your book title. The quirkier the better in my humble opinion. This should relate to what you have written. I usually have my main character as the title of the book.
  10. Revise the writing. This is proofread #1. You are just checking to see if everything makes sense before taking a more professional approach with with editing.
  11. Be the editor or find one. Now is the time to take a professional look at the story. Does everything fit together? Be careful not to over-edit. You want to keep your original story intact if you think it makes sense. Sometimes what we do first is all we need. Done is always better than perfect. If you wish to get a second pair of eyes, choose a professional editor who knows the in’s and out’s of successful children’s book writing.
  12. Be the illustrator or find one. If you can draw, that will work really well with the story. If not, that’s okay, you can find a professional illustrator on art portfolio sites like Behance or even Instagram. Make sure their design principles are aligned with how you want to craft your story. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen words and illustrations mismatched. Really get to know the artist and why they do what they do.
  13. Review everything for consistency. Now that the finished draft is in your hands, have a look through everything to make sure this is the optimal children’s book you can deliver. Check to ensure illustrations and words match. Check that your book cover pops with the title. As long as you are happy with everything, that’s what matters most.

Bonus steps:
Publish and promote! You need to tell your fans that you wrote a book, to make your completion celebration that much sweeter. If you are starting from scratch and have no fans yet, start with friends and family. Also, go find your audience and hang out with them. They are waiting to hear from you. Share what you created and see if they like it. Publishing and promotion are whole separate topics in themselves! At least you are ready to make that book now!

Can’t wait to see what you create :)

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80x Children’s Author | TrevorCarss.com

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Trevor Carss

Trevor Carss

80x Children’s Author | TrevorCarss.com

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