Most people think that writing a children’s book is way easier compared to adult literature. This is actually not true. As a matter of fact, writing about fentanyl side effects may be easier than writing a readable children’s book.
As a matter of fact, Sarah Maizes, author of the children’s book On My Way to School and On My Way to the Bath, shared that before she was an author, she was an agent for children’s books written by authors such as Paul Zindel, Cynthia Rylant, Dav Pilkey, and Judy Blume.
However, even as a successful agent, she said she failed to place 500 manuscripts for every one that a publisher took. The reason: they just didn’t pique the interest of children or parents.
Maizes suggested that if you want your opus rescued from the unsolicited pile, you need more than just an amazing story and entertaining characters.
These five simple tips for writing a children’s book worth reading are a good place to start.
**Write for a specific age group **
Maizes says no children's book should claim to be a good story "for all ages.” Although a rare few books have crossover appeal, kids of different ages have different interests and development needs. So, it’s best to start writing with a specific age group in mind if you want to write a book that’s relatable to readers.
Choosing an approximate age level for your book can help you narrow-down your story focus and also help you write more relatable stories.
Though some writers would argue that choosing the right age group should come in the “fine-tuning” stage, we strongly suggest that you determine this first before you start writing. It will be easier for you to mold your story and define your characters if you have a specific audience in mind.
Make your characters diverse
According to Ross Montgomery, author of The Tornado Chasers, he used to write characters that were like himself—male and white—because those were the “most established choices” and caused the “least disruption". It almost seemed like a reflex that he chose characters who were able-bodied and male.
With The Tornado Chasers, his second book, he decided to give much more thought to the characters he wrote. He started crafting diverse characters and realized that diverse characters give the story more color and life. It wasn't easy or natural, but after countless revisions and editing, he was finally able to launch a book which was well-received and praised by his readership.
Make your audience see themselves in your book
Whether it’s for a toddler or for a grown-up man, it’s always more inviting to read or see something that resonates with you. This is especially important with writing children’s literature because if your readers can totally relate to the story, they’ll read it over and over again.
Make the story as compelling as you can
Every storyteller's goal is to make the reader feel compelled to keep reading until the end. The best way to achieve this is to make the story’s plot—beginning, body, and ending—clear, especially to yourself.
That doesn't mean you should make it simple or predictable. Telling your audience about a young girl who saw a wallet full of cash and then returns it before going home is not that compelling. It’s just a narration of what happened throughout the child’s day.
To make the story compelling, you have to add elements of surprise, rise and fall, and a moral to the story. Clearly define the plot so that when you write the storyline, you won’t get lost.
Write a story that will stand-out
Writing a story is one thing. Getting it published is another. So, how can you get your piece published if the publisher won’t be compelled to invest their money in distributing, advertising, and selling your story?
Write a story that will get people’s interest and would make them want to spend time reading it. So, the bigger question now is how do you make a story stand-out?
According to established authors, the first element of a great story is for it to start with a bang, from the very first sentence. That might be all you get before the editor moves on to the next manuscript.
Try to put your readers in medias res, in the middle of the action, to immediately get them hooked. It shouldn't be so confusing that they give up but it should be compelling enough that they want to know it turns out and how it got to that point.
Keep it simple. Later you may use flowery words, but if the reader has to reach for a dictionary to understand what's going on, the immediacy is lost.
Build a vivid world for your readers. If you’re sharing a story of a kid suffering from drug addiction and going to rehab, for instance, you have to show your readers what happens inside the kid’s mind and body, as well as showing them the external environment. It’s as if you’re putting them inside the story as the action unfolds. You have to reveal to your audience the intricacies of your created world.
Don't be afraid to rewrite. Great stories don’t happen overnight and rarely in the first draft. If you don’t succeed in getting it right the first time, try, try again.
These tips may not be all-encompassing but they can nevertheless give you the right push you need to pursue your passion for writing.