Some people assume it is easy to write a children's book. After all, they're only kids! We know that's not true. Kids know what they like, they are smart and picky about what they read. Publishers get inundated with children's book manuscripts, so they have to be very discerning.
Probably my initial tip would be to read masses of picture books. Picture books have a unique rhythm to them that can only be understood by reading them. Picture books have to make every word count. Look at how the text and illustrations work together. The more familiar you become with all types of picture books, the more of an expert you become on how to go about your own writing.
Here are a few tips to help you on your writing journey. I learned many of them as I stumbled along, and I also had far more experienced writers willingly help a naive newbie, for which I'm extremely grateful.
- Shop! Gather your ideas.
Observe. Write your ideas down. Keep a notebook.
- Make time for your writing.
Even if it's only a few minutes a day, write every day if you can. Keep a diary, work on a story. Good writing takes practice and if you don't do it often enough, you get rusty.
- Put it away for a while.
You've written something and decide that it's awful. Put it away for a week, a month, several months, then bring it out and work on it again with a fresh perspective.
- Keep it short!
Picture books are usually between 500-900 words. Publishers are not interested in long manuscripts for picture books. So make every word count.
Remember that illustrations tell half the story, so you don't need to be excessively descriptive. You also are not expected to provide illustrations or an illustrator. Publishers prefer to choose their own.
- Revise Rewrite Revise Rewrite
Going over and over your work is a big part of writing. Cut out unnecessary words, make sure you haven't used the same word too often. Could you say something in a better way? Getting the story down on paper is only the beginning. The bulk of the work is in the rewriting and polishing of the story.
- Have someone read your writing out loud to you.
This is especially important with rhyming text, to make sure it scans properly. Does the rhythm sound the same to someone else's ears as it does to mine? The way you are hearing the words in your own brain can be quite different to how someone else does, and you can work on problem areas once you can identify them.
When you feel you are ready to submit your manuscript to a publisher, research which publisher publishes the type of story you have written. Visit book stores and libraries. Then research those publishers. Many do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.
Those that do, check out what their submission guidelines are. Make sure your manuscript is presented exactly the way they specify, or they won't look at it.
- Enter annual competitions in a bid to get published.
Storylines list of their relevant competitions.
- Join writers' organisations and network
Storylines promotes public awareness of the importance of reading and supports New Zealand writers and illustrators. Storylines hold events that are invaluable with networking with both published and unpublished writers.
- Believe in yourself
Don't let anyone discourage you from your dream. Don't compare yourself to others. Work on improving your writing skills, but remember you are unique.
- Write for pleasure, not just to get published.
Writing should be something you love to do, regardless of what form it takes. Enjoy the process and the sense of achievement when you have written something from the heart.
However, there is nothing wrong with wanting to be published, just don't take the rejections personally.
- And never ever give up!
If my dream can come true, so can yours.