Writing Children’s Books: The Bare Essentials of Writing for Children

I was emailing a new children’s writer and realized that I had spelled out the most essential lessons to writing good stories. Perhaps you’re interested in my 1-minute advice on writing. If so, here it is:

I attended a Children’s Writer’s Bootcamp (which I recommend if one is held nearby). One formula they gave that helps me a great deal is that great stories can generally be summarized with the sentence:

This is a story about ______________________ who wants, more than anything, ______________________ but can’t get it because _____________________.

Then that struggle or conflict and the question in the reader’s mind of, will the MC (main character) get what they want, drives the reader to see what happens.

Now, particularly in picture books, you can find lots of successful stories that don’t really fall into this pattern. But…. my feeling is that many of them are successful, despite not following this pattern. Filling in the blanks in the above sentence has helped me greatly as a writer.

I would also consider writing a story (or rewriting an existing one) in the first person. You really want the reader to empathize with the MC and also to get a sense of that person, with all their quirks and I think telling the story AS that person, forces the writer to fully define WHO is this person (are they arrogant, prone to exaggeration, hopeful, angry?).

In terms of getting a lot MORE advice, I always recommend, SCBWI and Laura Backes, who is a co-owner of both the Children’s Writer’s Bootcamp program and The CBI Clubhouse Children’s Writing Community. I’m not quite sure yet whether I like the brand new, The CBI Clubhouse Children’s Writing Community opening to the website or the old Write4Kids.com better. What do you think? At any rate, there is a lot of great content there. I think Laura is especially good at giving advice and then giving examples from popular books of where a writer has used a particular technique very well.

I urge you to comment below if you have a essential truth about writing for children or want to recommend another person or group who teaches these skills.

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