In many ways, writing a book for children is no different from writing a book for adults. You need great characters and a compelling story that keeps readers engaged. However, you must present your story in a way that is appropriate for your targeted age group.
Read Successful Children's Books
Begin your journey as a children's book writer by reading the best books you can find. The "New York Times" list of best-sellers is a good place to start your research. The children's best-seller lists are divided into picture books, middle grade, young adult and series. You can also ask your librarian to let you know which books kids consistently check out. Read widely until you discover the books you truly love.
Choose Your Age Group
After reading dozens of children's books, you may have an idea of which age group would enjoy your writing. The standard age groups for children's books are board books for pre-readers, picture books for preschool to age 8, easy readers for ages 5 to 8, middle-grade books for ages 9 to 11 and young adult, or YA, books for ages 12 and older. Determine which of these age groups works best for your subject matter and style of writing.
Get to Know Your Target Audience
Spend time with kids if you don't have any of your own. Get to know children in your target age group to find out what interests them, scares them, amuses them or bores them to tears. Writing based on the experience of your own childhood may be out of sync with the children of today who have a vastly different world view. If you are writing for middle-graders, keep in mind that these readers identify with protagonists who are a few years ahead of them in age and experience.
Write That Book
Writing for children offers a great deal of freedom, and you'll have many opportunities to get your book into the hands of young readers. Concentrate on creating a compelling story before thinking about how to get your work published. While you craft your story, be mindful of the customary lengths for children's books. Picture books are usually 32 pages long, chapter books for new readers can range from 1,500 to 10,000 words, middle-grade books range from 10,000 to 30,000 words and young adult titles should be 25,000 to 50,000 words.