How do you write a children's book?
“So how do you write a children’s book?” was the question asked, “where do you start?”
The truth is I don’t think there is a standard way. You can look at all sorts of guides and suggestions; it must have a beginning, middle and end, but everyone has their own way.
I started by having an inspiration and a reason – the inspiration was my grandchildren and the reason was to spend more time with them. I could do this through an imaginary situation, a kid’s bedtime story, and it became therapy for me. I started by thinking about short bedtime stories with a talking teddy bear and it grew from there. I had a skeleton of a storyline, but as it grew I thought about each chapter at a time. As I did so I then went back to introduce elements that would not be used until later. Characters formed in my head as I continued. I tried to use real life situations to make sure I brought things to life as best as I could and base the children’s book characters on who I know – for instance ‘Reg’ really is a duck that thinks he’s a chicken, Katherine really does run the campsite we go to and we really have flown a plane – all of this helps create an image in your head as you write.
I have no idea how others write or get their inspiration. I have heard people say that you should read lots of other children’s adventure books for the same age group and genre to get ideas but I did not want to do this, I wanted to write something for someone in particular based on our adventures, where I wanted to go – there are of course no limits to what you can write about.
I am lucky enough at this stage not to have ‘writers block’. I can think of a few more adventures and the 2nd book is underway but I do have to really think hard about how to link things together at times; this is not easy. Once I have a path it becomes clearer. I write with no inhibitions, I don’t worry too much about grammar and structure at first, I just want to get the idea on a page. I then go back a chapter at a time and refine. I make notes for the next chapter and also link back to earlier chapters maybe adding something a few chapters back, so it links and makes sense – for instance the ‘slightly out of place crooked panelled door with a gleaming brass doorknob’ is in chapter 1 but not used until much later in the book. This is something which is a lot easier with today’s modern technology. I have no idea how the great writers did this in years gone by on a standard typewriter – perhaps that is the art of a good writer.
I have been asked ‘Where do you find the time?’. The answer to that one is pretty clear – in 2020 we were locked down due to the coronavirus pandemic and although I was lucky enough to maintain a full time job from home, my free time was now available, and my reason and inspiration were made all the more poignant.
‘Is this the right way to write?’ I have no idea, but it works for me and hopefully you will enjoy the first book The Adventures of Poppy and Lord Ted: The First Summer.