So you've decided to write a children's book. That's great! Before you even pick up your pen, here's some tips from the professionals to help you make the best possible start.
Get a good idea
It might sound obvious, but your story has got to stand out.There are millions of books out there and you will be competing with all of them. Google the basic premise of your idea to see if your idea has been done before, and if it has, find a way to make yours different. Your first idea might not be your best, so don't be scared to try a few different approaches.
Stick to what works
There's a time and a place to break the rules, and this isn't it. Stick to the industry specifications and you won't run into problems when it comes to publishing your story later down the line. The specifications vary from project to project, but they usually look something like this:
Is Your Main Character Human?
While this question might take you by surprise, it's a very important one!
Think about who your reader is going to identify with. Will your character be male, or female? Will they be human, or an anthropomorphic panda? Are they African-American or Polish? This seems difficult because essentially you'll want a wide range of children to read your book, but that doesn't mean your character has to be a bland stand-in of indistinguishable race. Kids identify with real kids.
Whoever you decide your main character (or characters) will be, they need to be seem REAL. They need to be appealing in a positive way, even if they are naughty. If kids don't like them, they won't want to read about them. So create positive personality traits that children can relate to and ensure your character feels like a real person with real emotions and you'll be onto a winner.
Don't Over Complicate Things
Picture books are popular amongst young children and for that reason the stories shouldn't be overly complicated. Younger readers don't have the best attention span. So if you start getting too complicated and diving into the character's complicated back story, you'll lose your reader.
Simple doesn't have to boring though, in fact, it's quite a challenge to create a good story using less words. You should still employ the same structure as you would in other stories with a beginning, a middle and an end. Keep sentences short and easy to follow. You can throw in one or two big words, but otherwise stick to simple language.
Kids LOVE repetition. Repetition of words, repetition of phrases, repetition of story scenes, even illustrations! Utilise this to your advantage in a way that adds to your book.
To Rhyme, or not to Rhyme?
Picture Books are different to most other books in that they are almost always read out loud. Reading is a great way for parents to connect with their children and rhyming books are perfect for this. If you're thinking of writing a rhyming book, be sure you are confident in your ability to rhyme well, (it's a lot harder than you think!) and try reading your script out loud several times to get a feel for the flow and how it sounds in spoken word.