Writing Children’s Fiction

So you want to write children’s fiction! But it’s way out of your comfort zone and you don’t know how to start… the shorter lengths are overwhelming… what do you do? Don’t worry, my friend. I have some tips that will hopefully help you get started on this exciting adventure. 

Themes and morals

A classic component of children’s fiction is the important morals and themes present throughout each story. At first glance, colorful children’s books appear to be relatively shallow narratives, but each and every page is really filled with meaning! These are often universal themes so you won’t need to invent an elaborate theme. Simply think about the type of lessons you would want to share with the mini versions of us. Recurring themes you may find throughout children’s stories are: 

  • Courage/bravery
  • Power of friendship 
  • Identity/belonging
  • Power of family/familial love
  • Grief/suffering
  • Growing up
  • Dealing with anger
  • Dealing with jealousy
  • Love (and its many forms) 
  • Importance of having fun 
  • Speaking up for yourself
  • Respect

Types of children’s fiction

There are so many kinds of children’s books. When you write, you will need to make sure you are using appropriate language for your target audience, so make sure you know which type of book you will be writing. 

Board books (0-3)

These have a very low word count and the pictures are going to be the main component. If you are into art, this may be a better option for you. You can also write a board book alongside an artist, but since the art is such a big component it will be more fulfilling if you partake in the art process as well. Board books are often used to teach a certain concept. 

Picture books (0-6)

Picture books are longer than board books, but the word count is still very low (500 or less) and the pictures are still the main aspect. Readers are going to remember the pictures more than the words in most cases.

Early readers (6-7) 

These are mini chapter books that still have illustrations throughout the book. The typical word count ranges from 2000 to 5000

Chapter books (7-9)

These books usually range from 5000 to 10000 words. Pictures may still be in these books but they’re usually less common and less elaborate. They usually come in series (but don’t have to) and are pretty quick to read.

Middle grade (9-12)

This is the bridge between chapter books and young adult. They are more complex than chapter books but not at the level of young adult. There may be anywhere from 30000 to 50000 words in these books with fewer pictures than before. Of course, there may be exceptions!

Young adult (12-18)

The bridge between children’s and adult literature with a typical word count from 50000 to 100000. They may be the same length as adult novels, some may even be longer. The primary distinction will simply be the content including subjects, themes, and vocabulary. 

Writing for your age group

The authorial voice is very important when writing children’s fiction. Picture books are often read aloud during storytimes or bedtime reading. However, chapter books are often tackled by more independent readers, and the density of young adult makes it difficult to read aloud. Make sure to find a specific voice for your target audience. 

Characters!

Characters are one of the most memorable aspects of children’s fiction. We remember characters even when their stories begin to fade from our minds — so make sure your characters are not two-dimensional. Really focus and hone in on the character development. It’s helpful to create characters that are relatable, funny, or inspiring — keep in mind the age group you’re writing for. Readers often like to read about characters who are older than them due to the appeal of looking up to someone more experienced. It feels harder to relate to younger characters. Keep this in mind when creating your characters as well!

The plot

Now for the plot! You’ll want to make this appropriate and relevant for your age group, and combine the theme you decided on earlier. The plot should also be engaging and be able to not only keep the interest of readers but teach them something along the way too. Thankfully, you have the help of characters and imagery on your side to craft an even better story. 

Read it out loud

A great way to see if your writing flows is to read it out loud. Does the prose sound natural? Do the sentences seem too long to flow off your tongue smoothly? Is something just weird? This can help you catch any errors that you may not have noticed before. 

Keeping readers attention

Finally, you’ll want to focus on details, plot twists, and other components that make your story fun to read — kids have short attention spans and they’ll want something interesting from the beginning to the end, or they’ll simply set the book down and move on. It’s important to be engaging and fun.

There are many ways you can go about writing children’s fiction, and it’s definitely okay to explore something out of your comfort zone and be creative! Don’t let the typical limits stop you. I hope these tips helped!

Published by Brooke Xu

Brooke is a high school student and has been creating stories since she learned how to pick up a pen. She is a tutor for the NC Virtual Peer Tutoring Center where she was previously a member of the Writing Center. In addition, she is a member of the Wake County Public Libraries teen volunteering program, has been a teacher assistant at Cary Chinese School, and participates in volunteering events which include educational activities for kids. In her free time, Brooke enjoys journaling, reading, singing, and raising plants.

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