1. Do you like the idea of being part of a book partnership, where the end result belongs as much to the illustrator as it does to you?
If you answered “yes” to this, then picture books may be a good choice for you since storytelling in picture books is a joint effort between text and illustrations.
2. Do you understand what “meter” is and how the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables make a kind of verbal music?
If “yes,” then you might consider writing rhyming picture books, as long as you also grasp plot and lively action and character and don’t mind being part of the creative partnership with an illustrator. If you answered “no,” don’t panic, many picture books don’t rhyme.
3. Are terms like “plot” and “characterization” and “scene” a little too scary for you?
If so, don’t despair, actually there has never been a better time in publishing for nonfiction than right now. Kids love nonfiction books and schools buys many of them.
4. Do you want to write something at 1000 words or less that will be published with lovely pictures, but that will be entirely dependent upon the story you wrote?
If so, then you might want to consider magazine writing. Keep in mind that magazine writing doesn’t mean lesser writing. Magazines like Highlights have over a million readers per issue. If a picture book writer ever had sales in the millions, it would be a super bestseller.
5. Do you want to write fiction a few thousand words long that is filled with clear, direct sentences and fun, lively action?
If so, you might be a strong early chapter book or early reader writer. Writers who can convey lively action and fun characters in clear direct sentences are in demand for beginning readers. And these books are often part of a series, meaning your first sale can sometimes turn into many
6. Do you love to write books that really explore a character for a long period of time?
Many people considering children’s books only think of picture books, but children’s novels are some of the most beloved books ever. The longer structure of novels gives you more time to explore themes and bring your characters to life.
7. Do you love to research? Yes or No?
Though writers of both fiction and nonfiction need to be comfortable with research, a real love for research suggests you might want to consider either historical fiction or possibly long-form nonfiction. Historical fiction that blends two genre (historical and mystery is especially popular, but so it historical and fantasy) is especially popular.
8. Do you love to tell a story but struggle with plot?
Narrative Nonfiction is storytelling where the stories are real and unfold according to real-life experience. Narrative nonfiction is popular in picture book length, magazine stories and book-length works of history, sports, or biographies. If you can find the story buried in your research and bring it to life, this might be the perfect spot for you.
9. Do you find you write best when someone tells you exactly what they want you to write?
The world of educational publishing often involves writing to very specific guidelines, which can feel too confining for some writers while exactly right for others. If your best writing comes when you inject your ideas and creativity into a set form, then educational publishing might be a good match for you.
The writing world offers us so many options, and finding exactly the right spot can mean a little self-analysis and exploration, but with all the options, there’s definitely room for more writers. Including you!
If you want more writing instruction like this, plus lots of tips and great resources, click here!
With over 100 books in publication, Jan Fields writes both chapter books for children and mystery novels for adults. She’s also known for a variety of experiences teaching writing, from one session SCBWI events to lengthier Highlights Foundation workshops to these blog posts for the Institute of Children’s Literature. As a former ICL instructor, Jan enjoys equipping writers for success in whatever way she can.