What I Had to Learn to Become A Better Children’s Book Writer – Cardinal Rule Press
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What I Had to Learn to Become A Better Children’s Book Writer

What I Had to Learn to Become A Better Childrens Book Writer. For the newbie writer dipping their toes into picture books, there are a couple helpful things to know when starting off.  #ChildrensBookWriter #HowToWrite #PictureBooks #WriteABook

I will forever have a soft spot in my heart for picture books. Both for the ones that I have read and the ones that I have written. There is so much joy to be found in this genre, and so much magic to be created. However, for the newbie writer dipping their toes into this category, there are a couple helpful things to know when starting off.

1. It takes more time than you think.

Take one look at a picture book and it’s true— storytimes are often ten to fifteen minutes max when reading aloud. In today’s market, fiction picture books are roughly 1,000 words, however many publishers call for them to be closer to the 500–750 word range. This is a range that many writers could probably knock out in one uninterrupted session. However, from speaking with fellow picture book writers, the completion of their manuscripts seem to vary anywhere from one month to two years. I would dare to argue that, more than in any other genre, every word counts in the picture book world. So, don’t be surprised when you find yourself staring at the same sentence for three weeks torn between which verb best conveys your message.

2. The world does not care about your picture book (at first).

This was a hard one to swallow, but it’s true. Too many picture books are submitted daily to publishers and agents for them to seek yours out individually. Set yours apart by truly pouring your heart onto the pages. Write about subjects and themes you care about. See a gap in the market? Great! Write, polish and submit your best work. I won’t pretend that the market isn’t saturated, however time and time again authors stand out from the slush pile. If they can do it, I promise, so can you. It may not be with your first book, or second book or thirtieth book, but if you truly love what you are doing and continue to put forth the effort, the universe will have no choice but to conspire in your favor.

3. Don’t attempt illustrations.

This is, of course, unless you can actually draw! Now, don’t come for me with pitchforks — I know that art is subjective — but unless you are an actual illustrator (which if you are, I’m incredibly jealous) leave the stick figure drawings on your desk. You and your publisher will ultimately collaborate on your book’s vision when they pair you with an illustrator. If you find that it is absolutely crucial to include an illustration note in the text, do so. However, your manuscript should not be bogged down with these notes: i.e. there is no need to explain what the character is wearing unless it is essential to the story’s plot.

4. You are not a legitimate writer to some people.

One of the hard things about being a picture book writer is accepting the backlash from the people who think that this was an ‘easy’ way into this industry or an ‘easy’ accomplishment. You will unfortunately find writers who take it upon themselves to point out that their 200k-word epic, fantasy novel makes them ‘more of a writer’ than you and your 100-word board book. You and I both know better! You don’t need to explain yourself. You don’t need to justify anything. Move on — we’ve got purple-unicorn-rainbow worlds to explore, with characters who know how to treat others with empathy and respect.

5. Picture books make a difference.

Okay, let me get corny for a second. But, it’s true — picture books make a huge difference in children’s day-to-day lives. More than ever, kids need narratives from other experiences and cultures. They need sad books, funny books, spooky books, inspirational books. They need worlds to play in, characters who understand them and stories that weave their magic far beyond the pages. As a writer, it’s both encouraging and profoundly intimidating to understand the impact at which our words may have on a child. Don’t take this job lightly. We all have that book which changed our lives, and for one child, that book could be yours.

If you need any more encouragement to stick to your writing goals, download our FREE Book Quote Stickers. Print them out and place them throughout your writing space to remind you that authors are important – the world needs YOUR BOOK!

Hannah Carmona is a former drama teacher and co-founder of the youth theatre program Collective Art School of Tennessee. A proud Latinx (who doesn’t speak a word of Spanish), Bestselling Children’s Author of three books, voiceover actor, Herbalist in training, and single mom of two fierce girls and a fur baby.

When not doing any of the above she can be found vlogging on Youtube or eating a family-sized pack of Twizzlers…or both at the same time!

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