If you want your children’s book to grab the attention of the publisher or rise to the top in popularity charts, you need, to begin with, a good story and a great character. But that is just the beginning. You also need a plan which takes into account all the other important factors.
- Target Audience While your book may appeal to a wider audience too, it is very important to have a target audience in mind while writing the book. You really need to engage with a specific age group if you want your book to make an impact. You have to decide if you are writing for very young children (2-6 years), middle graders (7-11 years) or young adults (12+) and plan the concept, characters and layout accordingly. Whether you write picture books, simple chapter books or more complex books depends entirely on the age group you have decided to write for.
- Theme Think up a concept which your target audience can relate to. The theme should have should have had enough resonance in the child’s world for the child to want repeated readings. If the book is appealing from a child’s point of view, it will surely find a place on many children’s bookshelves.
- Clear Plot Structure Make sure your story has a well-structured narrative. It should have a clear beginning, middle and conclusion. Just as an attention-grabbing beginning is important, a clear story arc and a great ending are equally necessary.
- Mind the message If you want to convey a message, make sure to be really subtle. Most children dislike narratives that are moralising and preachy. Focus on making your writing good enough for even young readers to get the point, instead of talking down to them. Children are smart so don’t patronise them if you want them to like your writing.
- Give it enough time Acclaimed author/illustrator Mem Fox once said that “Writing for children is like writing War and Peace in haiku.” It’s anything but simple. Although it looks deceptively simple, children’s books cannot be tossed out in a couple of hours. Sometimes a simple picture book may take as much or more time as an adult book because you get much fewer words to make your point. So, every word has to be weighed and distilled before being used. This economy of words is a challenge for every child’s writer and overcoming this hurdle takes time.
Before you begin writing, prepare yourself for writing by reading a lot of books in the genre that you are planning to write. And be committed to the writing process because, with each manuscript that you complete, you improve your ability to write for young readers. Happy writing!