Website of children’s author Paeony Lewis
There is no magic method for writing children’s books, but here is an assortment of TIPS that I hope you find useful.
1. Visit bookshops and libraries. Read classics and what is currently being published. Look around your favourite bookshop and decide what shelves would be best for your books. This will help you to fit your stories to the market.
2. Don’t just talk and read about writing. Do it!
For example, write the same scene three times: as dialogue, description, action.
Write a scene using smell and colour.
Change your point of view. If you like writing in the third person (he, she) then experiment by changing to the first person (I).
All this should help you develop and prevent you getting stuck in a rut.
4. Making characters larger than life and giving them distinctive traits can help your characters stand out from the page.
5. At its simplest level a story is a problem that needs to be solved. Plus how that problem is solved depends on the characters.
6. With picture books and early chapter books I’ve found the ‘Rule of Three’ can help the build-up of tension in the middle section of a story. Three things thwart the main character before the climax. This is a traditional storytelling technique: ‘The Three Little Pigs’ (straw, wood and brick houses) and ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’ (porridge, chairs and beds)
7. I usually divide my picture book texts into 12 double-page spreads (in a typical picture book there are 24 pages of actual story, which is 12 spreads). As I don’t illustrate (shame) this helps me to visualise the story and ensure there are enough potential images in my text. Plus, I think that the act of the turning the page is part of the story.
8. When writing, think about what matters to a child and let them solve the problem, not an adult.
9. I think the narrator viewpoint can sometimes sound too superior and therefore I’d recommend avoiding it unless you have a very light touch.
10. There’s euphoria after you’ve written something and your story will seem perfect. It’s not. Honest! Every writer benefits from setting their manuscript aside for a few weeks or months (or even days!) and getting on with something new. When you return to it I promise you’ll want to do some revision.
11. Note down ideas when they come to you. You’ll think you should be able to remember them, but you seldom will (or maybe it’s just me because my daughter says I have the memory of a fish - five seconds!).
12. Persevere. Make writing friends and commiserate with them (they’ll understand). Look upon rejection as part of your writing apprenticeship.
Click on the links for some useful organisations for UK children’s writers
SCBWI in the British Isles
I’d especially recommend their annual weekend on writing children’s books. If you’re not yet published then do click on the link above and find out more from their helpful website.
Society of Authors
You need to be published to join but they’ll vet a non-member’s first contract.
Federation of Children’s Book Groups
They organise a good annual conference.
Visit the website and click on the menu item called Book Groups to find a local group. These aren’t groups on writing. They’re for all adults who are passionate about children’s books. I belong to the excellent North Norfolk Children’s Book Group who regularly hold local evening talks by authors, including Anne Fine, Jacqueline Wilson, David Almond, Malorie Blackman, Anthony Horowitz...
Go to the LINKS section for further great websites and blogs.
Website of Children’s Author, Paeony Lewis www.paeonylewis.com
© Paeony Lewis 2005, Last updated 2015
New Blog: Picture Book Den
I’m one of a group of children’s authors who’ve got together to write blogs at the Picture Book Den on picture books and writing (and illustrating too).