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Posted by Kate, September 21, 2012

Tips for writing children’s books

Someone recently asked me on Twitter if we had any tips for writing for children.

We’ve already written several blog posts around this topic.

I wrote about the whole approach to writing for children vs writing for adults in this post.

There’s a blog post about writing rhyming picture books.

And there’s one about writing picture books vs writing apps.

But we haven’t done anything more general.

So here are my tips:

Write with a child in mind. If you don’t know any children (you don’t have to be a parent or a teacher, but both kinds of exposure to children help), you are unlikely to be good at publishing for them. And you get out of touch: I used to be BRILLIANT at judging the ages of children, but yesterday evening I thought that a 14 month old was seven months old. If you have a pre-school child yourself, you don’t make that mistake.

I don’t want to rain on your parade, but be realistic about how much money you are likely to earn. Of course there are people who hit the big time, but most don’t.

Don’t kid yourself you’re a writer until you’ve actually written something. An idea is not a book.

Think about joining a writer’s group, like SCBWI in the US or SCBWI UK in the UK.

If you are submitting to a publisher or an agent, follow submission guidelines (here are ours), and don’t be unrealistic about how long it might take a publisher or an agent to get back to you: their first duty is to their existing authors.

I asked other people in the office what their tips were.

Imogen says, “If you find a publisher, meet deadlines!”

Steph says, “Be original.”

Ola says, “Write every day.”

Tom says, “Have a clear idea of who you are writing for”. (He didn’t know I’d said this, but this shows he is well suited to working at Nosy Crow). Asked for something else, he said, “Don’t be a sock-puppet”.

Kristina says, “Don’t take yourself too seriously… and have fun”.

Adrian says, “Never talk down to children”.

Specifically on the subject of writing picture books, Alice, who’s standing in until Louise begins as our new Head of Picture Books, says, “Don’t tie yourself to an illustrator. If you’re a picture book writer, submit your picture book texts separately.”

And, on the same subject, Giselle says, “If you’re writing picture books, think visually as well as in words… which doesn’t mean that you have to do the drawing…”

There are many books and websites that offer advice.

Here are two books I am aware of:

Harold Underdown’s The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books.

Roz Morris’s Nail Your Novel.

Both authors use Twitter.

The Writer’s Handbook and The Children’s Writer’s And Artist’s Yearbook are both helpful, though they have quite a UK focus.

If you’re writing a children’s book, or thinking of writing one, good luck!

Do you have tips that you would like to share? Do let us know on Twitter or in the comments section below.