First Steps in Children's Story Writing
One Book Written Using This Method
We're All Different, However ...
Every author is different, so every approach will vary. However, this is what works for me. When looking for a book idea, one productive way to start is by checking out what issues are currently out there in the world. In this case, what are important issues facing children today? What are their concerns and challenges (make sure you choose from among children's concerns, not your own)? After taking some time to survey the landscape, pick an issue that inspires you, one you can live with for a long time. If you pick an issue you feel is profitable, but is of no personal interest, in all likelihood you will be starting a project you never finish. It takes a good while to write, edit, rewrite, etc. and if you choose some subject that does not fire your own imagination, chances are you'll either set it aside long before it's done out of sheer boredom ... or you'll create one really bland little book no kid wants to read or have read to them. Your lack of enthusiasm is likely to show.
Once you have chosen a topic for your book, it is time to conduct some research. Go out to the library, the big county library, not the wee little small town library, and borrow all the children's book on your topic that you can find. Take notes on what you read. Be careful here, this is not so you can copy some other author's work or style, but so you can see what aspects of this subject other people have covered. All of us have a unique set of life experiences that we bring to the table when we write. What this first research allows you to do is to see what has not been covered in other books on this subject. You are looking for that gap you can fill from your own unique perspective that will make your children's book different from the rest.
Take your research to the next level now. Find out what experts in the field have to say about this subject. There is no harm in grounding your story on good, factual research currently being conducted in the field. It may change your approach to how your main character handles the situation in the story.
A word of caution: if you find that there are no children's books on the topic you are toying with covering, you may want to rethink the decision. Publishers are a conservative lot. They like to see that there is already interest in the field for a particular topic. One way they gauge this interest is by looking around to see if there are other books on the subject. If not, they may decide the topic is too risky to take on. If you are feeling bold, you can be the first to boldly go into this area, but you may discover you have to self-publish to get your work out.
For me, finding the topic was simplicity itself. When I wrote Michael and the New Baby, my son was six and worried about becoming the older sibling when we were expecting our second child. I had a very personal interest in addressing the various fears he felt and had experienced much of what was driving his fears. Following the steps outlined above, I was able to come up with an adventurous, entertaining story that dealt with his fears in an engaging manner and that was different from other stories of this ilk, and is now published. The approach works.
Once the topic has been determined, the research is done, and the market is checked, the rest is good story writing. At that point, the most important step is to sit down and write. A writer can become trapped in endless research if a writer is not careful or lets fear of failure keep a writer away from the keyboard. Enjoy the adventure and write the book.
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