Writing the story is where writers often get stuck. It is not as simple as writing words on a page. There are many things to consider before you put your pencil to the paper. As I mentioned in the prior post I have been writing the acupuncture story for 3 years. It started as one thing and has changed dramatically. The more I learn about writing picture books the stronger my stories grow. Consider these questions before you start writing your story.
What do you know about children’s books?
The #1 thing for a children’s book writer to do is to read, read and read children’s books some more. As a classroom teacher and literacy specialist, I have read thousands of children’s books. Reading children’s books helps you to understand the book format, story pacing, how the illustrations contribute to the story, character development … The more familiar you are with children’s books the easier you will find writing picture books.
Where do you find story ideas?
Where do story ideas come from? My answer is everywhere. Once you stop looking for the perfect idea, you will find ideas are everywhere. I have a special notebook where I keep all of my story ideas. Think about Halloween books. I am guessing you have your favorites. You will notice that each story is unique, but they are all about Halloween. Your story about Halloween will be based on your experience and love of the holiday that is unique to you. If you write about what you love and what you know you will enjoy writing stories. Writers write about important things is a post about making a personal connection with your writing.
Who is your target audience?
Knowing your audience is another key to writing picture books. Different age groups require different word counts. Gertie Saves the Day was easy, I knew my audience would be children ages 4-8. The sweet spot for this age is around 750 words. With our second book about acupuncture the characters are a little older. We are targeting this book for ages 6-10. For older picture books our target will be 600-1,000 words.
Is the topic age appropriate?
Going to your local library is a good place to start researching your topic. Librarians have a wealth of information at their fingertips. Conducting an online search is another option, but we wanted to see the actual books. Is acupuncture an appropriate topic for a picture book? Yes, we found several children’s books written about acupuncture. We read each book, took notes and discussed how our book could be different. One thing we noted is how those books were shelved. In our library they have a parenting section of picture books. Parents can borrow these books to share with their child. They are not in the general population of books. These picture books are informational. They are written to help parents talk about difficult topics. This gave us some more to think about. Is this where we wanted to see our book?
Who will be buying your book?
If you are writing a children’s book you should think about who will be buying your book. Your readers may consist of parents, grandparents, teachers, librarians, friends, relatives and others who may be interested in the topic or story. The real importance of knowing your reader is that you can adapt your writing. You are not just writing for children. You want your story to appeal to the adults as well. Knowing who will be purchasing your book will also provide valuable insights for marketing.
Now get ready to write!
I am so glad you’re here and so grateful that I can share this journey with you. I really do believe that the world needs your story to be told.
I’m looking forward to helping in any way that I can. And speaking of helping — please leave a comment below and let me know what questions you have about picture book writing.
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Enjoy your day!