Almost everyone I know says they want to write a book. Truth be told, I’ll bet everyone has a unique, interesting story to tell. A lot of folks think that writing a children’s book is most likely the quickest and easiest way to becoming a published author, especially when you’re talking picture books. When you look at the surface, it’s only a few hundred words, if that. And heck, if all these celebrities can do it, then it must be easy, right?
When someone tells me they want to be the next Dr. Seuss or Shel Silverstein or Laura Numeroff, I ask them, “How many children’s books have you read lately?” If they don’t have little kids, they’ll go back to when they were kids themselves. That’s when I let them know it’s time to do some homework. You see, writing for children is one of the hardest art forms you can tackle. It’s precisley because your word count is low that makes it so difficult. Every word has weight; every phrase carries deeper meaning.
The edits for my children’s book, The Dandelion’s Tale, a total of 6 typed pages, took ten times longer to complete and revise than any full length novel I’ve written for adults. I was a guy who had done his homework. I’d read hundreds of children’s books, but that first attempt at writing one was a bear. I learned more about the writing process in those 6 little pages than I had over 15 years of writing novels.
Which is why encourage anyone who wants to write for children to go out and read. Go to your library or local bookstore and literally surround yourself with books. Become familiar with the cadences, the language and the many themes that appeal to children. When your eyes have crossed, take a small break, then grab a pencil or computer and begin. You’ve taken an important first step. Just know, there are many more to come.