13 steps to producing a children's book

"Spooky" will be appearing soon, I've talked about it already, so no more commentary about the story line. You'll be able to purchase her through Amazon hopefully within a couple weeks.

However, I do wish to address the process of producing a story for young people. I've learned alot from this and thought I'd share a tidbit or two.

First of all, if you think writing for young people is somehow easier than writing for adults, re-think that. Your primary goal is to find a story which will captivate the minds of young people: in my case 10-12 year olds. Now, I chose that age group because frankly the topic I was writing about - WWII - is too harsh for me to translate into anything understandable for younger groups. But most certainly not because I am an expert on 12 year olds.

Step 2: find a solid base of information regarding a specific topic for use in shaping the story. Lucky me - I went to a museum a few years back and BLAM! a story leaped out from a fetching display practically begging me to get to work. Still, my lack of experience in anything regarding 10-12 year olds held me back for 3 entire years. This past September, I finally took the bait and began.

Step 3: For me anyway, before writing the story, I started searching for an illustrator. I cannot draw, not worth beans. I can produce a cat, but only in one particular pose and figured that would get old pretty quickly, basically frying the mostly short attention span of middle grade kids. If you can draw, then fabulous! Skip this step. I can't. So, I went online and Voilà!! Super lucky once again, I spoke over the phone with a lady who answered my advert. I fell in love with her. Literally. She had all the correct responses to my questions, actually listened to what I was looking for as a writer, and was unsure enough of her ability to produce that to be endearing. I wanted her. So, I sent off a scene from the middle of what would become the text of the story. (Yup, I started writing the middle part first, from the height of the action). Then I waited, somewhat impatiently, for her to send me what she produced to illustrate that scene. When her email arrived in my in-box, I could NOT bring myself to open the images. I was that scared that she would turn out not being THE ONE. It was weirdly reminiscent of on-line dating: i.e. the wait for the first coffee date to see if the guy was lying about his age, had outrageous acne, three eyes or a wife and kids waiting in the car. I asked Patrick to open her mail first, looked at his face, then grabbed my phone to look, and cried actual tears of relief. Because, of course, she got it right.

Step 4: Stop goofing off and get to writing the story because the illustrator needs it if she's to illustrate the thing, right? Easily said. I started from the middle and wrote to the end, then started once again from the middle and wrote backwards to the beginning. The first draft I wrote for 3 year olds. Then I did a version for adults and then for 16 year olds, and finally got around to the last version in between, which I sent off to a teacher for age evaluation. Yup, I'm pretty clueless about children, mine being 27 and 29. Even so, I ended up with a bunch of asterisk decorated words which I then had to define at the bottom of each page. I chose NOT to eliminate these tougher more technical words because I figure that learning something when you read is a good thing. Another detail, even though this is for children, the golden writing rules still apply: introduction, background, middle action w/conflict and resolution. Kids live this way, we all do. We move from event to event throughout our existence in this same pattern. It's called life. And a book is a slice of life.

Step 5: Find young beta readers, and supply them with the story with no illustrations. This is where it's great to have friends, particularly ones with kids. I also spoke with quite a few young people during my working day and told the Spooky story ad-lib, which by the way is fabulous practice for writing for young people. If you can tell the story, you can write it. It was through verbal story-telling that I was able to tweak some bits into tellable shape. You can see kids' eyes glaze over when you've lost them, something you won't see when you let them read the proof on their own. And in theory your friends love you and won't admit their kid threw the book across the room, while screaming that they hate this story.

Step 6: Have lots of adults read it, and while you listen to their huge amounts of advice, take only some of it. Most of the time they aren't writers. Some well-meaning souls will - out of obligation- find a thing for you to change to prove they've done their job. That doesn't mean you must change said thing. Still, listen up and if that thing shows up more than once, really work at it until it goes away. Note to self: a Thesaurus is a valuable tool.

Step 7: Read it outloud to your self over and over and over again. Where your tongue trips up, the reader will too. Fix those. Hunt for words you use too often. Remove numerous metaphors, because this is children's lit. Second note to self: Hemingway's style is best. Punchy. Hit it where it needs to be hit. Remove the poetry.

Step 8: Make a physical, construction paper, glue and scissors dummy book. Decide where to chop your text for the page turn, remembering to keep the reader on the edge of his seat, so that he/she MUST turn the page to see what's coming next. There is no single piece of advice I could give which is more important than the fabrication of the dummy book. I could not visualize what I wanted until I spent an entire day back in third grade cutting and pasting. I then gave a photocopy of it to the illustrator with empty squares where I wanted illustrations for that particular piece of action. She found it invauable, silly though it looked. I'm saving mine.

Step 9: Get really high quality scans of the illustrator's work. Get started inserting them and re-sizing them to place your text next to the correct image. Your dummy book already has that done so you're simply placing everthing onto a single word document which you've sized to fit the format of the book you want produced. I chose 6 in X 9in. Easy to hold but doesn't look too childish because when you're 12, you don't want to look childish.

Step 10: Find someone you love willing to upload the whole thing for you because you'll go crazy doing it. Thank you, Tanya!

Step 11, Plan launch party...drink champagne.

Step 12: Get off your backside and get to the marketting side of things. Find your audience and let them know what you've produced. Your book is in your car everywhere you go and your card is in your pocket. Network, talk yourself blue in the face to everybody.

Step 13: Sell some copies and have another sip of champagne. You're now a bona fide children's book author!
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Published on January 05, 2017 06:45 Tags: children-s-fiction, writing-tips
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