How to Start Writing Preschool Children's Picture Books
Starting to write picture books for preschool-age children (ages 3 to 5) requires learning, exploring and dreaming. To write for this age group, you will need to explore how these children see, understand, and engage in their world. You will also need to learn about the picture book genre, and the difference between traditional narratives and concept books. You should take time to dream about possible story ideas, both for individual books and for book series. You will also want learn how to cultivate and develop your ideas so that you can see them come to life as full-length books.
Conduct preliminary research on the genre of picture books for preschool-aged children. Begin with writing and publishing guides, such as "Writing Picture Books" by children’s book author Ann Whitford Paul, or with websites that offer genre overviews, such as Right-Writing.com’s article, “Understanding Children’s Book Genres” by Laura Backes.
Learn about your audience. Spend time playing with and reading picture books to the preschool-aged children in your life. Attend a “storytime” at a local library or independent bookstore, and notice how the children respond to the books that are read. Review the top ten lists of best-selling children’s picture books that are published regularly in the New York Times and Publisher’s Weekly.
Read a wide variety of picture books for preschool-aged children. Take time with the classics, such as Caldecott Medal winners “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak, and “Owl Moon” by Jane Yolen, as well as with more recent releases, such as “The Beatrice Letters” by Lemony Snicket, “Goldalicious” by Victoria Kann, and “Knuffle Bunny Too” by Mo Willems.
Cultivate and keep track of story ideas. Notice interesting articles and photos in newspapers and magazines. Take a walk in your neighborhood or a field trip to a local zoo, toy store, or museum. Pay attention to what engages others, especially children. Track your ideas in a notebook, folder, or computer file, and then give yourself assignments to write stories based on these ideas.
Connect with a supportive community. Look for a local writers group or enroll in a writing class at a local community college or university. Locate a regional chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and visit one of their monthly meetings. Consider attending the International Conference for Children’s Book Writers hosted by the SCBWI every year.
- Keep writing regardless of whether or not you have initial success with publishing. It can take anywhere from a few months to a few years to publish your first picture book. During that time, you should be writing and revising stories for multiple picture books.
- Develop a daily, weekly, or monthly writing schedule and adhere to it as you would to a work schedule. Set clear deadlines for your writing and, if helpful, ask a close friend or writing partner to hold you accountable for meeting those deadlines.
- “Writing Picture Books,” Ann Whitford Paul, 2009.
- “How to Write a Children’s Book and Get It Published,” Barbara Seuling, 2004.
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