Can you write and illustrate your own children’s book?

Are you an aspiring novelist with a quirky creative flair? Do you wish to relive the magic of your own childhood and express yourself creatively with words and imagery? If you answered yes to any of the above questions, writing a children’s book may be the right option for you. If you have not published work before, writing and illustrating a children’s book may seem like a daunting prospect. However luckily creating your first picture book can now be an incredibly accessible process, and with a little support and planning you can achieve your goal! I have outlined some of the main steps below which I hope will help you with your creative venture.





Step One – Take action and start planning!


When a project seems overwhelming it can be incredibly hard to get started. Many creative people are secretly perfectionists and fear of rejection, disappointment or failure can act as serious road blockers to success! It is important for content creators to avoid overthinking and embark upon their creative venture as soon as possible. A potential story certainly does not have to be perfect, and we should mostly focus on launching into the project and enjoying the overall process.

From the outset, it is fundamentally important to come up with a plotline. The structure of children’s novels seem to be based around adventure/ action. The main character will often face a hurdle or several mini hurdles which will need to be successfully overcome. Similarly, when you are developing your plot you should take the below main points into account.

1. The characters in children’s books are often outlandish, likeable, and memorable.

2. The scenery is often distinctive in Children’s books and brightly coloured.

3. Stories often take place outside / in the outdoors as nature and scenery is aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

It is often helpful to review similar books based on your plot line to gain tips on how other writers have successfully completed this project. Remember with children’s books you have a short space to successfully develop your plot so it’s best to launch right in rather than labour over specific details!

Similarly choosing a memorable title is quite important when writing a children’s book. When creating your title use similar letters / alliteration, or use an Action based phrase/line to captivate your audience’s attention!


Step Two – create a timetable/ set up a schedule


As well as creating your plotline, it is also advisable to set up a schedule in order to achieve your goal and keep to your wordcount. The normal standardized children’s picture book is usually approximately 32 pages in length, targeted at 3–7-year-olds, with a word count 450 -750 words. Create your timetable based on these specifications, alongside taking your own daily schedule into account. Often writers will purchase a calendar and fill each day based on a set daily word count/ count of illustrations. Some authors will focus on the writing process first before preparing illustrations. I have discussed the illustrative process in further detail below!


Step Three – Drafting your novel


Once you have a rough guideline to work from, you can focus on completing the first draft of your novel. Don’t aim for perfection with your first draft! The redrafting process enables you to make all the edits that are necessary. Make sure to keep an eye on your wordcount one of the greatest challenges involved in composing a children’s novel is keeping it concise, attention grabbing and audience appropriate.


Step Four – Feedback


Once you have completed the first draft of your novel it is often advisable to get feedback from family, friends or professionally. In the case of a children’s book perhaps reading the draft to children might be best as they will give you their honest opinion and are your main target audience after all! The feedback you receive will help you to make whatever edits are necessary to improve the overall quality of your work.


Step five – Editor


As well as enlisting the help of family, friends, and accountability buddies you can also enlist the assistance of a reputable editor. Although this is a personal choice hiring an editor could help you to polish up your novel in a professional manner. There are two main types of editors that can be hired to assist with this process.

1. Developmental editors –Developmental editors focus on the narrative itself and may help to promulgate the plot, assist in the characterization process, edit dialogue, and make overall suggestions on how the story could be improved.

2. Copy editors –Copy editors focus on editing language related issues such as formatting / spelling/punctuation font size etc.


Step Six – Illustrations


When moving onto the illustrative process it may be helpful to create a ‘mock-up’ of your book. To create a ‘mock-up’ take a stack of blank pages, fold them in half, and staple them together based on the page count and dimensions of your work. Print out the typed version of your manuscript, cut the words into chunks, and tape them to each page. Sketch your drawings above each of the pages and illustrate each page as normal. Scan / photograph the completed illustrations and upload them to one PDF document.

It is important to ensure both the font and imagery are in alignment. The font size/ style should match the overall illustration size and placement. The placement of the text on the page needs to follow specific guidelines such as the rule of thirds. Page breaks should also be decided in advance to ascertain what content should be placed on each page.


Step Seven – Publishing


When you are publishing your novel you can either choose to submit your finished piece to a publishing house or enter the self-publishing industry. There are Pros and Cons to both processes. If you have decided to go down the self-publishing route it may be easier to publish your finished work with your own illustrations. However, you won’t have any guidance throughout the publication process, and you would have to be prepared to market/ sell your own work.

There are also numerous upsides to the traditional publishing process utilizing a publishing house. Some of these include being able to get payment early (an advance), proofreading / editing services being provided, ISBN provided, alongside illustrations /cover art. Similarly, your story would be associated with a reputable publishing house who would be responsible for the marketing and promotion of the finished work. However, one of the downsides maybe it can take many years to successfully publish your piece using this method, and the publishing house may not wish to use your illustrations. You will also not have much agency over the book format or where the copies will be sold, alongside worrying about royalties / profit distribution.


Conclusion

Overall, we can see from the above that editing and illustrating your own children’s book is now a much accessible process than it was in prior years. Your book can be published with a little planning, and support combined with your own inherent love for writing /illustrating! Remember to enjoy the process and to not to be disheartened when the end goal seems far away / you come across some challenges. Ultimately, all good things take time and effort, and with some resilience your dream will soon become a reality!


Author: Jessica McCarthy

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