Start Your Children's Writing Career Today
So you want to write a children's book. Great! Writing for children is a wonderful hobby
or occupation (as in my case).
But where does one start? What does one need to do to become a children's author? How
did I become a published children's author?
Actually, I decided that I wanted to be a writer before I decided that I wanted to write
children's books. The first thing I did after realising that I wanted to be a writer was join
our local writers' centre. Then I joined a romance writers' group. Writing romance seemed like
a good idea at the time. At a meeting of the romance writers' group I met several writers who
were also writing children's books.
I hadn't read a children's book in quite a few years. And I hadn't considered writing
for children. But the prospect interested me, so off I went to my local library. A visit to
my library can take me a good hour (or more) as I study the shelves for books published in
the past year or two.
While at the library, I also looked for non-fiction books about writing children's books.
I've read every book on writing for children that I could find in the libraries around my city.
I'm a member of a lot of different libraries. It's a joke with me that I collect libraries
like some people collect stamps.
Next, I investigated a number of courses about writing children's books. I settled on
an eight week course run by a local college. It covered everything I needed to know about writing
for children (well, almost everything) at a very reasonable rate. Later, I completed a picture
book course run by an adult education facility.
I call all of this reading and studying my apprenticeship. A writer has to learn how
to write a book just as a pilot has to learn how to fly a plane.
After all this learning and writing I was ready to send my work to a manuscript assessment
agency, other writers or my local writers' centre to gain feedback on my writing. I needed
to know what I was doing wrong, as well as what I was doing right. This critical assessment
of my work was part of my education.
It's through the writers' groups I belong to that I learnt about the publishing opportunities
which lead to most of my books. Therefore I'm a big fan of networking.
I'm also a big fan of knowledge and practice, as my main publisher said to me in his
first email: "you've obviously done this before". Another publisher recently noted in an email
to me: "someone who understands a lot about picture book structure".
So, to reiterate, my advice is:
a. Join writers' groups. Local and/or online writers' groups. By joining writers' groups
you hope to network, learn about the publishing world, obtain feedback on your work and make
friends with similar interests.
b. Read a lot of recent children's books. Take notice of what you like and what seems
to work. Study the writing. You're reading for research first, pleasure second.
When I visit the local library I look for recent releases. It's important to keep up
with the market and what's being published. If you're writing a book about a comet hurtling
towards Earth and a book with a similar storyline has been published in the last year, your
story is unlikely to be published, no matter how good it is.
c. Read a lot of books about writing for children. It can help to read books about writing
in general. But children's books are a specialised field. For example, you need to know the
different types of children's books for the various age groups - the word lengths, language,
d. Write the type of children's books you enjoy the most. Write every day if possible.
Practice makes you a better writer. Practice⁄repetition is how we learn and master tasks.