Conversations: 5/5/2017



Have you ever considered writing books for children? I took a swing at it when my daughter was just starting kindergarten. The plan was to use her experiences to develop a story that would be great fun for lots of children as well as give her a book filled with many of her very own memories. As the pages fell from my typewriter—no personal PC at my house in those days—my embellishments carried her story into an imaginary realm. Although I read it to her at the time, and she laughed and became surprised at all the right spots, the manuscript never left our house. Today, I’m thinking of revising it a bit and try it out with our great-grandchildren. I’ve learned a lot over these years. What better time to share these children’s writing techniques with you than springtime when the world comes alive with blossoms and playgrounds full of children.

children's picture book

Possibly the best advice—and instruction—I received when seeking “the way” to write for children of various ages was this:

Keep it simple. Keep it focused. Keep it moving. Those were the key points given by a well-known children’s author I met at the first writer’s conference I attended. Although she was speaking specifically about writing for young children, I’ve sown those guidelines into all my writing efforts.

Keep it simple. We’ve all heard that educating our children “starts in the womb” when Mom reads aloud. And that infants and toddlers are “sponge learners” absorbing sights, sounds and language very quickly. However, if we over-write a children’s book, it will be of no use to the child/audience we’re want to reach.

  • Hold the story to a 1,200-1,500 word length.
  • Each sentence should reveal one single specific idea.
  • Use words that describe the idea—words that translate into beautiful illustrations.
  • Paragraphs: no longer than three sentences.
  • KEEP YOUR WORDS VISUAL. I’ve added this piece to my Start Here list because once an infant’s eyes begin to “track” the sounds and voices they hear their world expands dramatically.

Keep it focused. It’s all about the available “attention span” of the age group we’re writing for.

  • Picture books/Board books: full color pages with large, easily identifiable characters and illustrations, and one-to-five words per page. These stories need to be tightly written.
  • Short Story books where each page of eight to fifteen words is considered a “chapter.”
  • Longer Chapter books connect to the specific likes of kindergarten and first grade age children. Remember, the parents are still selecting these books, and if the illustrations appear too “different” to them, they will buy a different book.

Keep it moving. All great stories are built on the same essential elements: character(s), interesting setting and plot—ups and downs of some level of conflict—and the resolution. When author Margaret Wise Brown wrote a rhyming poem (1947) describing the bedtime ritual of a bunny rabbit she could not have guessed the millions of children who have enjoyed it. GOOD NIGHT MOON gave very young children the rhythm of the words which flowed with the actions of the main character resulting a peaceful night’s sleep.

Takeaway for today: whether you aim to make a career in the children’s books world, or write in ANY other genre, take the opportunity to exercise your skills and follow the above steps to create one Picture Book. Think of this as PLAY TIME and allow images to float in your thoughts as the words pour onto the page. You may just find yourself writing the next book that sells 48 billion copies. ⚓︎


ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene has been writing something since before kindergarten days and continues to love the process. Through her small business—DOYLE WRITING SERVICES—she brings more than 40 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their projects. This is a nice fit as she develops these blogs for Outskirts Press (OP) a leading self-publisher, and occasionally accepts a ghostwriting project from one of their clients. Her recent book release (with OP) titled FIREPROOF PROVERBS, A Writer’s Study of Words, is already receiving excellent reviews including several professional writer’s endorsements given on the book’s back cover.  

Royalene’s writing experience grew through a wide variety of positions from Office Manager and Administrative Assistant to Teacher of Literature and Advanced Writing courses and editor/writer for an International Christian ministry. Her willingness to listen to struggling authors, learn their goals and expectations and discern their writing voice has brought many manuscripts into the published books arena.

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