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
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:
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
c) Read a lot of books about writing for
children. Articles from websites are also a great
idea naturally. Youre reading mine
now! 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.
e) Take courses on writing for children.
I should point out that the writing for children
course I did, many years ago, involved weekly
writing assignments. I wrote a picture book, easy
reader, early chapter book and sections of longer
novels, which were all marked by my tutor. Two of
my first six published titles were written during
f) Have your manuscripts assessed by a reputable
manuscript assessment service. Due to the volume
of submissions publishers receive and the quality
of some of these submissions, many publishers are
now requesting a manuscript assessment accompany
g) Write down your dreams and goals. Look at them
every day. Break them down into small steps if
necessary. Your writing activities should
move you towards your writing dreams and goals.
h) Enter competitions. Write articles and short
stories. Seek ways of filling your writer's CV
with publishing credits.
Now you're on your way. From this point on, the
secret to becoming a
children's author is persistence. I've read and
heard quotes from many
authors who claim that the secret to their
success is persistence. They never gave up!