This might make you keep reading, or stop reading altogether—I’ve written one book; a short story for kids. While I’ve been freelance writing for a while as a children’s lit ghostwriter, creating complete books is fairly new to me.
I say it because transparency is good. I also say it because if you’re just getting started, the process can seem overwhelming, and publishing a book might seem reserved for those with an abundance of resources, whether that’s an abundance of skills, time, or money to sink into creating a top of the line children’s book.
Primarily, I say it because you can literally write a kids’ book in a matter of hours, illustrate it yourself with a tool like Canva, and then publish it easily using Kindle Direct Publishing. This might not be the best way to go about it, and there might be better alternatives, but I’m telling you it can happen, and I’m telling you from experience.
So, I want to pass that experience along to you—a template for how I went about the first step in writing a children’s book. (If you want to see more about the illustration piece, check out how I went about KDP using Canva for my illustrations and other tips on how to do graphic design without Photoshop. And, the actual template is at the end of the post.)
How to Write a Children’s Book
1. Solidify Your Plot
If you’re wanting to write a children’s book, that desire may have been sparked by a good idea. In that case, you’re one step ahead!
For others, you may have a specialty as a writer; you know you can write, but you just need that good idea.
For those needing a plot that excites them, here are a few things I do to brainstorm. (And it’s worth saying, while I myself have published one single book under my name, I’ve written a ton more for others, and typically always from scratch, with only a shred of input from the client.)
Choose a general theme
The easiest way to get started is to choose your theme. Or, another way of going about it is thinking of your goal.
- Bedtime story
- Teach about friendship
- Big brother, little brother
- How to use manners
For me, this usually starts with the things I already know and love. For the sake of this example, let’s say baseball.
Decide on a plot
An easy step to get tripped up on, and so early in the process, too! It pains me to know this is a hurdle for so many, because once you clear this one, things begin to fall into place.
So, the plot. I think many of us suffer from the “who is going to care” syndrome, or, just flat out think our ideas are stupid, or everything has been done before.
(Plot and elements example above)
I’ll tell you right now, if you pick the right plot, a lot of people will care, and in terms of ideas being stupid…have you looked at some of the great-selling kids books on Amazon? If you were to just be looking at titles out of context, you’d think there is no way these stories can be successful.
And last, has everything been done before? Not even close. And that’s just talking about books revolving around those things that currently populate our world at this very second….not to mention anything new that is coming today, tomorrow, and down the road.
So, take your general theme from the step above and now think about how you can tell a story different than one that already exists on that topic.
With me and baseball, here is a random list I’m generating right now off the top of my head.
- A boy with no athletic skill whatsoever finds a baseball bat, which turns out to be a magical baseball bat that transforms him into a great player. Now the boy faces a dilemma of using the magic bat. perhaps the bat somehow loses its magic in the championship game.
- A book where each page is dedicated to a player on the field, with each of them experiencing the same play, and going through what’s unfolding in front of them from their own personal perspective.
- A book where a young baseball card collector’s collection comes to life at night and reenacts classic baseball scenes and moments that only he seems to be able to see.
- A boy who is stuck at home and can only play in his backyard hears a radio crackling each day…upon further inspection his backyard neighbor is listening to a baseball game, and the young boy develops a love for America’s favorite past time right then and there.
- A boy who is stuck at home and can only play in his backyard keeps finding random baseballs every other day or so. The mysterious baseballs seem to appear out of nowhere,
From there, maybe it’s a simple alphabet book where every letter example is a baseball item, or a book of alliteration around baseball, and so on. You get the point!
So, the next prompt is to take your topic and just start brain dumping ideas in the form of short paragraphs like those I’ve done above. Think about the theme, the different details, and elements that can be connected to it. As you see from my examples, a couple are about playing the game itself, but two aren’t, but yet still connect with the general theme.
2.Choose Your Story’s Elements
Everybody knows that every story has five elements, right? Or, is it eight elements? Or wait, eleven!
Anyway, my point is, maybe it doesn’t matter, or maybe it differs by story. So, for your children’s book, which elements do you absolutely need? I’d say plot, setting, character, conflict, and resolution.
And these are not scary things. These are words that mean exactly what you think they mean.
- Plot: The basis of the story—what’s the point?
- Setting: Where does the story take place? And when?
- Character: Who is the focus of the story?
- Conflict: What is the issue that needs to be resolved?
- Resolution: How is that conflict resolved?
3. Settle on Your Reader Goal
What do you want to be the general outcome of your book? Do you want to teach a lesson? Do you want to teach a fact? Do you want the reader to smile? Do you want the reader to take action?
As you can see, there a number of directions, and each will guide your writing differently. Meaning, if your goal is to teach a lesson, then you’ll also want to nail down the main challenge or conflict of the story.
Using the baseball examples above, if my goal is to teach the lesson that using a magical baseball bat is unfair, then that’s going to be different than how I’d approach things if the goal was instead to teach that kids should believe in themselves and their skills rather than relying on a “tool” to get ahead.
4. Visualize a Beginning, Middle, and End
Stories can take different forms, but generally, they should have a beginning/intro, a middle challenge, etc. and then an end with resolution.
It’s helpful to keep these three stages in mind before you start writing so that you know you’re only going to spend a couple of pages on the intro, the bulk of the pages for the middle, and then a couple of pages on resolution and tying everything together.
If you are writing about a brotherhood relationship:
- Beginning: Older brother is jealous of little
- Middle: Little brother gets all of the attention
- End: Big brother accepts and embraces little brother
5. Settle on Structure
You might be tempted to skip this piece, but it’s something you’ll want to settle on before you start writing. Why? Structure. Meaning, even with the best idea, if you don’t have structure, things can get frustrating fast.
(Plan and structure example above)
And by structure, I mean, do you just want to free-form write from page to page, or do you want to follow a particular style and cadence; do you want rhyming, and if so, is that every line, every other line, etc.?
Ryan was walking around the backyard
When he saw a pearly white ball on the ground
He walked up cautiously, looked down then up
But there was nobody to be found…
Ryan walking around the backyard
When his foot suddenly kicked something hard
Round like a rock, and white like a light
The ball appeared from nowhere, overnight
Something that doesn’t rhyme at all!
6. Conceptualize the Ending
Whenever I write a story, the ending is always at least conceptualized before I write the bulk of the story.
Why? Because it’s the last thing you’re going to leave the reader with, and especially if you’re going for an emotional play, or to teach a lesson, you want to really drive it home in the last few lines.
So, you don’t want to paint yourself into a corner by writing and writing and writing, and then finally reach the last page only to not really have the setup you had hoped for, or to have actually just used the perfect word or set of words the page prior.
7. Fill in the Blanks
From there, all that’s left to do is the bulk of the writing! And while that might sound like a chore, look at the above—you’ve already taken care of most of the difficulty.
And by “fill in the banks,” I mean to jot down general ideas for each of your remaining pages.
All in all, the template helps. And you can grab it here: Childrens Story Template PDF