HomeWriting ResourcesTips for Writing an Engaging Children’s Book

Tips for Writing an Engaging Children’s Book

By Brian Jenkins, for The Children’s Book Review
Published: November 29, 2010

A captivating children’s book inspires kids to shout, “I WANT TO READ IT AGAIN!”

This article offers useful research tips, strategies, and writing techniques to help you write a book that will elicit that reaction from kids.

Research Tips and Strategies

  • Use a note pad or an audio recording device to store you’re brilliant ideas. Don’t take a chance on forgetting them.
  • Ask librarians and book store managers what types of books children like best. Also, ask bookstore managers what types of children’s books parent’s are purchasing for their kids.
  • If you’re going to write a picture book, review popular works in the genre and find out how much of the story is carried by illustrations.
  • Review the writing style and the story structure of books that won Children’s Book of the Year Awards.
  • Continually read your manuscript with the goal: How can I make it better?
  • Review new and old picture books for inspiration.
  • Don’t always play it safe. Be daring! This is a good tip for any writer.
  • Read the book out loud in order to eliminate any unclear or long sentences.
  • Join a creative writing group. Just make sure nobody steals your dazzling ideas!
  • Think about your childhood memories. They may inspire you to write an entertaining book with a good take-home message for children.
  • Read the book to children and gauge their reactions. Big smiles are good; polite, fake versions indicate you have some revisions to make!
  • There are probably specific times of the day when your creative juices are flowing. Use these times to write instead of doing chores or other tasks.
  • Network with other children’s book writers.

8 Writing Tips and Writing Techniques

  • Children enjoy suspense, so keep them wondering what’s going to happen next and they’ll want to keep turning the pages.
  • Children also like plenty of action, so make sure your characters are doing things instead of spending a lot of time sitting and thinking! As soon as children get bored, you’ve lost them.
  • Children, of course, love to laugh, so sprinkle some humor into the book.
  • If it’s not a picture book, don’t let the story stagnate while you describe the scenery. Again, you can’t let kids get bored!
  • Entertaining picture books build to a climax. Add some unique plot patterns.
  • Poetic devices can enhance picture books. Consider using rhythm, repetition, alliterations, simile, word play, and rhymes.
  • Picture books don’t contain a lot of words, so make sure to use vivid words, sensory words, action words, and other words that are pleasing to hear.
  • Good picture books typically have an underlying message and give the reader something of value.

Publishing the Book

The current edition of Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market, published by Writers Digest, includes available markets for children’s books writers, including magazines and contests. It also offers information about publishers. The website gives very good information about manuscript formatting, how to write a query letter, agents, and other useful information to help get your book published.

Spending time learning about the children’s book publishing industry will pay major dividends when pitching your manuscript to publishers. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is an excellence resource. Attend their seminars and conferences and learn about the issues surrounding children’s book publishing. You may have the opportunity to make some valuable contacts who could help you get your book published.

Finally, an unknown writer who sends an unsolicited manuscript to an editor has about 10 seconds to grab his or her attention. If the editor isn’t captivated by the end of the first page, he or she probably won’t read the rest of it. Use an active first sentence to grab the reader’s attention. The first paragraph should set the stage by providing information about the main characters, the setting, and the upcoming conflict. The reader needs to be involved in the story by the end of the first page. That way they are enticed into reading more.

This article was written by Brian Jenkins, a member of the BrainTrack writing staff. He writes about careers in writing, as well as other career-related topics.

Image courtesy of Markus Rödder

If you enjoyed these writing tips, writing techniques and strategy and research ideas, you may be interested in this article: The Art of Writing Haiku for Kids

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Bianca Schulze is the founder of The Children’s Book Review. She is a reader, reviewer, mother and children’s book lover. She also has a decade’s worth of experience working with children in the great outdoors. Combined with her love of books and experience as a children’s specialist bookseller, the goal is to share her passion for children’s literature to grow readers. Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, she now lives with her husband and three children near Boulder, Colorado.

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