Writing Tips: 4 Rules Beginning Children's Book Writers Should Never Break

hi everybody I'm John bard managing editor of children's book insider the newsletter for children's writers and fightin bookworm in chief at the CBI Clubhouse our brand-new community for children's writers you could find it at CBI Clubhouse calm today's topic writing children's books for rules beginning writers should never break in the pages of children's book insider and at the CBI Clubhouse we often talk about the rules of writing for kids citing proper page lengths and story types for different age groups a better term would probably be guidelines these rules exist only to tell you what in general editors like to see in the manuscript sent to them and of course for every rule there are numerous exceptions but while we all like to think our book is strong enough to override the guidelines this is usually not the case so with that in mind here are some rules that shouldn't be broken until you really know what you're doing don't write picture books in rhyme yes you've seen them in the stores and kids like them but children also like picture books that aren't written in rhyme it takes a great deal of skill and hard work to craft an original story complete with unique characters in about a thousand words it takes another skill entirely to tell the story in rhyme if you've got it great but don't assume that because your story is aimed at young children it has to rhyme always try to write it in prose first once you've got the story on paper decide if the rhyming format will add to the text if the answer is yes make sure it's strong rhyme it has a consistent meter uses no cliches or extra words it has a rhythm that is easy to read aloud don't disregard designated word lengths no editor is going to turn down a terrific book just because the text length falls outside the average guidelines if you're young adult novel is complete in a hundred pages there's no sense padding the manuscript simply because most YS are longer but length guide ROC guidelines are there for a reason publishers have determined about how much text kids in different ages can read so it behooves you to try to stay as close to the guidelines as possible and if you ever try to get a group of four-year-olds sit still for a two thousand word picture book you'll understand why editors are leaning towards shorter texts in the youngest age brackets when submitting to magazines it's absolutely essential that you stick to the requested word limits because articles must fit within a finite amount of space on the page too long or too short can mean instant rejection don't provide testimonials and queries it's nice to have lots of neighborhood kids read your manuscript and give you positive feedback but your potential editor doesn't need to hear about it frankly editor's a children's book publishers don't give much credence to testimonials from readers who may be family or friends of the author also don't clutter up the query letter with ideas of why children need your book or what they'll learn from it that's up to the editor to decide there's one exception if you've written a nonfiction book and you could show that there aren't any other or many other books at least in print to cover the same subject keep your query letter tight brief and to the point provide an intriguing plot synopsis or nonfiction outline relevant information about yourself and close the self-addressed stamped envelope sell your book not your reasons for writing it and finally don't write a series before selling the first book we've critiqued many manuscripts from authors who say I've got six more books written with these characters should I mention that to the editor when I submit my manuscript our answer is always no unless an editor is specifically looking for new series proposals and the books were written from the start to form a series this is a bad idea realize that series are created as a group of books that are bound together by some sort of hook in fiction it might be the club the main characters form a neighborhood they all live in or cause the champion in nonfiction it's a topic by Natural Sciences or biographies and an age group rarely do you see picture book fiction series what does happen is a character may become very popular with readers and the author is asked to write another book featuring the same cast these fiction series actually grow slowly one book at a time so unless you've conceived your books as a traditional series and are able to send a thought-out Suri's proposal to the editor stick to selling one book at a time when an editor sees you have numerous manuscripts featuring the same characters and similar plots she may feel that you've spent too much time writing new material and not enough time revising which we've already got and remember each book series or not must stand on its own it needs a strong beginning well-developed middle and satisfying end no fair leaving the ending unfinished with the intention of continuing the story in the next book well that was a lot of don'ts so here's one do for you come and visit us at the CBI Clubhouse CBI Clubhouse calm and get lots more information about writing children's books till next time this is John bard we'll see ya

14 thoughts on “Writing Tips: 4 Rules Beginning Children's Book Writers Should Never Break

  1. Jon, these are wonderful tips, I absolutely agree with the rhyming. As someone who attempted it on a past book, I can say it takes some practice to master the style.

  2. Poetry is my first love. Just because I'm new to writing children's books doesn't mean I haven't mastered rhythm and rhyme.

  3. 4 year olds won't sit still. yes they will-start when they're newborns, can't leave. Start with longer books, complex books, eg, Velveteen Rabbit. Every day. Twice. By age 4, they'll sit still, understand, treaure the time with you and story. I think it's busy adult parents who won't sit still and give their children the art of words, complex ideas, thinking skills as Moms used to. Now, 2-parent working families; no one has time. Rush, rush, rush. Give your kids two valuable treasures no one can take away: skill with words and YOU`!

  4. I am writing several books and I want to grow up to be a novelist

  5. 2:10 That's a good point.

    Does that mean the target age group determines a story's natural length? For example, don't make a 4-year old a story that has a story length better suited for a 8-year old

  6. OMG I'm 11 too! I have one bio done, the sequel going, and I'm working on a horror book!

  7. Thank you! Would love to have something in print by 2013 or 2014. These tips are very helpful and I plan on using them. By the way, John, your voice is incredible! 🙂

  8. I am writing a children's book but am not familiar with publishers. Are there any that you recommend? If I wanted to publish a book as well as make that book an ebook, is It possible?

  9. how to a clasify a book to be a childrens book, young adult, or adult book?

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