© 2013 Donna Shepherd
What’s your first step in writing a book for children? When I start a new project, I begin by thinking like a kid. Remember asking Mom for a sheet so you could make indoor hideouts? Cover your kitchen table with a sheet and sit under it for a while. Does it bring back memories of what it was like to be a child? What were your dreams? What issues did you deal with at that time? Think of one child. Look at your topic through his eyes. Set the story in that child’s world.
What do children like to read about? There are universal experiences such as losing a tooth, going to school for the first time, or getting a pet. Children love humor and action. Kids like to learn, too, especially in a fun way. Sometimes children even like to be scared—but just a little.
There’s a delicate balance when writing for the younger set. While I want to write books children love, I know that children aren’t usually the buyers. Parents, grandparents, teachers—in other words, grown-ups—are the ones who buy my books.
Keeping my buyers in mind makes me think more like a pro. What do parents look for in a book? Bedtime stories and books that help them bond with their children are always at the top of the list. Many times, they look for a book that teaches. One market always ripe for new books is nonfiction. My tendency is to write fiction, but my bestselling book is about taking care of teeth. I’ve heard from many parents who appreciate the fact that their children are now willing to brush their teeth after reading what happens if they don’t! When you think of what a grandparent wants, bonding and bedtime stories are important, but a sense of nostalgia might be factored into the equation.
Teachers look for books with educational value that can hold children’s attention during reading time and recess. When I wrote about a singing snake (obviously fiction!), I included a glossary of the musical terms used in the story to make the book more valuable as a teaching tool.
So think like a kid and write like a pro. After your brainstorming session under the table, your first challenge is to try to get out from under there. Your second challenge? Write!
Donna Shepherd‘s books feature short, playful rhymes, humorous illustrations, and hidden items. Her newest book, Ava’s Secret Tea Party, is her first “girly” book with an old-fashioned fairy tale, hidden teacups and cookies, recipes, and crafts. For writing tips, useful links, and updates about Donna’s books, visit her Facebook page.