Writing Children’s Books

Posted by on May 16, 2014 in Blog | Comments Off on Writing Children’s Books

Writing Children’s Books

Writing children’s books is not an easy business; it demands swiftness, characters that appeal to the age group, fitting dialogue, and factual explanation. Many people today claim they don’t like to read, although there is a marked revival among young people who are finding works by contemporary writers appealing, as well as books from the past by well-known authors. While some non-readers are diagnosed as Dyslexic and may experience specific learning disabilities in reading, most others who seldom if ever pick up a book or magazine to read admit to finding reading for leisure boring, too difficult, not important and a waste of time. Children, in particular, with poor reading habits usually get poor grades at school; they are easily distracted, exhibit anti-social behavior, fail to achieve ego-identity during adolescence, and often fail to develop to their full potential.

Writing Children’s Books

In our modern society most people are categorized as “paper readers” or “electronic readers”; even before they start pre-school, children today are already skilled in some or other form of multimedia through access to computers, electronic games and cellular phones. Most pre-teens have fun exchanging messages with friends on mobile phone, send e-mails, take pictures, listen to music, watch videos, browse the Internet, and check their schedule as if it was a palmtop. Download free e-book, “11 Steps to Writing Your First Children’s Book”.

The habit of reading should begin at an early stage – starting with parents or caregivers reading to the child on a regular basis — and should be pursued throughout one’s lifetime. Writing children’s books can be a very rewarding and profitable leisure pursuit or career for writers. Any writer who wants to write and publish children’s books should spend an hour or more in the children’s book section of any public library or book store, to familiarize themselves with the type of children’s books that are well-liked or currently being published.


Kwarts Publishers Logo

 Kwarts Publishers invite anyone who wants to try their hand at writing a short children’s story, to send it in for their ‘Mini-Stories’ writing opportunity. Stories must be aimed at children between the ages of 4 and 10 years and should be simply written, full of fun and definitely with a happy ending! You do not have to be an experienced writer to send in your mini-story. The purpose of this writing opportunity is to stimulate writing talent, and provide a platform where you can begin to realize your writing dream. This opportunity is for anyone, young and old! Selected entries will be posted on the blog page, and published in an e-book compilation. >> Read More


Imagnary House is a new boutique publishing house for children’s literature in Cape Town, South Africa. Founder and CEO, Brad Harris, says: “We are focused on building a larger market for African children’s authors and illustrators by both igniting the local readership and engaging with international readers.” Visit their Website: https://imagnaryhouse.com/. Imagnary House has just opened their submissions after launching their debut publication (Seven by B. D. Harris), and is now looking to build up their publication list for the next 2 years. What are they looking for? “We love stories that are fun and imaginative, but also address current societal issues for children. We want simple stories that mean something and can feed positively into our children’s futures,” says Brad Harris.

Imagnary House will consider submissions in the following genres:

  • Children’s long form fiction (think Roald Dahl and CS Lewis narratives)
  • Picture books
  • Rhyming verse books (think Dr Seuss)

Writers and illustrators can submit their work on Imagnary Houses’ submissions page at  https://imagnaryhouse.com/pages/submissions.


For example, the Harry Potter series of story books by J. K. Rowling have had a positive impact on children’s reading habits. It is also beneficial to know which multimedia games children find inspiring. Bear in mind that young audiences today are comfortable with a mix up of videos, photos, drawings, texts, sounds and cartoons that create complex time-space electronic building blocks to tell a story.

Many writer’s claim they do not have what it takes to captivate the attention of youngsters, but it is a skill than can be learned. As the work progresses, try to measure it against what you consider to be high standards.

  • Does the swiftness compare to a published work in the same genre by an author you admire?
  • Are the characters fully developed for this age group?
  • Is the dialogue fitting for the audience?
  • Check that you have included all of the important elements.
  • Did you include anything that is unnecessary?
  • If your story is based on factual explanation, did you do enough research, or did you pad areas with indiscriminate filler text?
  • Does your story make sense to other people?
  • Recognize when a manuscript is as strong as you can make it, and then send it out to a publisher for review.

What do children today want to read?

A plausible reason why most children and teens today are not avid readers is because other forms of communication, learning and entertainment have taken over the ever popular print book. What sparks their interest? The answer lies in delivering swifter action, a swifter plot, and swifter characterization. Fast-paced multimedia platforms have raised the bar for authors to match up the existence of improbable actualities consistent with credible facts which former generations never knew. For instance, the Harry Potter stories deliver something for everyone: magic, friendship, action, diverse family units, humor, adventure, fantastic settings, and even horror.

  • Never write down to children; modern children will not read it.
  • Sincerity, simplicity and enthusiasm are the requisites of your work.
  • Adopt a kind of multi-personality in fashioning your narrative.
  • Be alert to imaginative plots.
  • Generate ideas from comic books [including Japanese Anime Manga], magazine cuttings, and incidents from real life, legends and mythology.
  • Place your stories against an unusual background.
  • Use dramatic narration. It does not matter to the reader that in reality animals do not speak, that trees do not sing, and that inanimate objects are not articulate. Their imagination is enhanced when reading about a secret garden that is inhabited by a scary dragon, when an abandoned castle turns out to be a giant space ship, or a magic doorway transports the character of the story to a time in the distant future. Stories should be a force for good – wholesome, alive, and inspiring.
  • Bookchat is a site for reviews and recommendations of English language South African children’s books.
  • Nal’ibali (isiXhosa for “Here’s the story”) is a national reading-for-enjoyment initiative to get people in South Africa – children and adults – passionate about telling and reading stories
  • FunDza Literary Trust‘s mission is to boost literacy among teens and young adult South Africans by popularizing reading, growing a community of readers and developing young writing talent.
  • Books LIVE is a daily online literary newspaper with all you need to know about South African publishing news, reviews, events and opinions.


What do publishers of children’s books want?

Publishers of children’s books want new ideas to be worked out as thoroughly and as perfectly as possible, outlined in a concise written proposal. They want a writer who can write well, write more than one story, and be professional. Publishers also look for that ‘extra something’ in a manuscript for a proposed children’s publication. In brief, the work must impress in its ability to sparkle, provide a fresh angle and be original. And it must provide a surprise ending. Books are expensive to produce and titles are therefore chosen specifically for their capacity to sell in sufficient quantities to make it financially viable, which means the work must be marketable to a wide readership. Steps the author should take:

  • Adopt the reader’s viewpoint, from the very start of writing the manuscript.
  • Keep within the designated word count for a children’s book. While the length of the manuscript should be determined by the story itself, it is wise to follow the following guidelines:
    • Fictional short story (7 500 words)
    • Adolescent/Teen novels (aimed at ages 8 to 12 years, 20,000 to 40.000 words; ages 12 to 16 years, 35,000 to 45,000 words)
    • Young adult (55 000 to 70 000 words)
    • Novelette (7 500 to 17 500 words)
    • Novella (17 500 to 40 000 words)
    • Novel (40 000 to 70 000 words)
    • Non-fiction (under 60 000 words)
    • Picture books (ages 1 to 3 years; 3 to 5 years; 5 to 7 years; 7 to 10 years) contain minimal text. The standard picture book consists of 32 pages, with a total of 25 – 1,500 words
    • Early Readers (ages 6 to 9 years) contain 1,000 – 1,500 words

Writing for children is not an easy business. You must consider your idea, and the number of words that will be occupied in telling your story. It is important to realize the child’s point of view. Children’s stories can only be written by means of imagination, recollection and insight. Now begins the game of ‘pretending’, which allows the mind of the child or adolescent to reason, invent, justify – simply put, to ‘rationalize’. This provokes the beginning of a vicarious adventure, which the writer of childhood tales hopes will prompt the young reader to exclaim ‘How I wish I could be like so-and-so [character in the story], having such amazing adventures, seeing such strange places, meeting unusual people, and doing such wonderful things!’ The book may lead to being made into a feature film, including anime [a Japanese style of motion-picture featuring hand-drawn or computer animation]. Once the manuscript is edited the author must decide whether to submit it to a commercial book publisher for review or self-publish. Read Publishing Choices.

Words by Theresa Lutge-Smith (ecottage@gmail.com). Contact Theresa for ghost writing, editing, and book publishing.

Share Button