001: Write a Children’s Book: What’s Your Idea?

Write a Children's Book

What's your idea?

June 9, 2016

writing for children episode oneWelcome to the very first episode of the Writing For Children podcast!

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Writing for Children podcast prize bundle for writers 

Here's what the show's about: teaching how to write for children. (Betcha never would've guess that!) Not just books, but for articles and stories in children's magazines, too. We'll (try to!) keep the show short and include even more valuable info in the show notes, since we can link great resources for you there. So please subscribe in iTunes and make sure to read about the giant giveaway below. Our segments will include:

  • Announcements - about opportunities in the children's literature market
  • Resources for Writers - we'll share some great resources, and some hard-to-find opportunities and sites
  • Write it Right! - the craft session
  • Listener Question of the Week - Your questions answered by the ICL faculty

 Every week you can get the transcript of the show which will include more links to great tips and resources for children's writers.

We’re celebrating the launch of this new podcast with a huge giveaway! Your participation will help launch the show. Go to writingforchildren.com to learn how to be part of the celebration and be eligible for the prizes … here is an abbreviated description of what we’re giving away:

1 - Pipeline to Publication is The Institute of Children’s Literature’s "immersion" course you do at home.

The program consists of eight writing workshops, supplemented by a directory of magazine publishers with more than 650 listings of current freelance markets.  

2 - Revise to Publish is another self-led course from ICL. Getting your concept down on paper is important, but developing the ability to take a fresh second look at your own writing, to revise your manuscript to eliminate weaknesses, reinforce strengths, and especially to fit the requirements of editors, are critical skills that are required to generate sales.

3 – Writing it Right! - You’ll learn how to make the process your own through the use of Nine Essential Questions, the ones that editors use to evaluate manuscripts every day. 

4 – Anatomy of Nonfiction - With more than 600 quotations and references to books and articles that illustrate nonfiction techniques, Anatomy of Nonfiction uses the insights of 73 children’s writers, editors, publishers, and librarians. 

5 – Launch Your Book Blueprint - This blueprint contains all of the obvious (and not-so-obvious) best practices for launching your books whether you're traditionally, partnered, or indie published, writing for children or adults, this blueprint contains all of the obvious and not-so-obvious best practices for launching your books. 

6- Our fantastic new ICL brushed cotton baseball cap with the embroidered logo. 

7- Our fantastic new ICL heavy canvas tote with the embroidered logo on the pocket.

8 – 1 hour with the Director of the Institute of Children’s Literature, Katie Davis. You can have a virtual consultation on any part of creating an author platform, marketing your books, or have her critique your writing up to 1,000 words.

TOTAL VALUE - $917.80

Giveaway ends 6/30/2016


  Download Writing for Children podcast   Download Writing for Children podcast iTunes   Download Writing for Children podcast stitcher

 

 Writing for Children podcast show notes download

Click here to download the show notes with extra resources!

Listener Question of the Week

Shauna Garcia asks:

I’m just starting out in this process and feel like I have  some great ideas, but just don’t know where to get started in the whole publishing thing. What is the first step to getting publish, other than the writing itself?

Listen to the answer in the podcast!

Got a question about writing? The faculty of the Institute of Children’s Literature is waiting to answer your question! Ask it RIGHT HERE.

Write it Right: Write a Children's Book: What's Your Idea?

Before you write your first word in a children’s book or young adult novel, you have to know what your idea is. For some, this begins with a question: What was it like to be an American sent to a prison camp simply because of your ethnic heritage? What would happen if you invented a machine that could answer any question – ANY question? What would happen if you thought your family was perfectly normal, only to discover they were actually spies from another country, or aliens from another planet? What does it mean to be an American?

An idea is a great thing, but it's not a book. No matter what idea you explore, someone else has either already explored it or is thinking about exploring it or is writing the book right now. But that's okay. Ideas are not books, and it's the book that matters most. But how do you know if your idea will be enough to base a book upon? All by itself, it's probably not. After all, the idea could probably be summed up in a few sentences and the book will be over 25 thousand words (at the minimum for kidlit novels). It begins with an idea, but you're going to need a lot more.

You’re going to need:

Characters we can care about who grow and change and come into conflict with other characters throughout the book. If we don't care, we won't read. If the characters never change, the book will be boring. If there is no conflict, the oomph of the great idea will eventually sag and grow dull and flat by the middle of the story. So you're going to have to inhabit your idea with people we want and need to watch.

A plot that feels purposeful, organized, and compelling. This can be a serious problem if your idea is about "showing" us something. If your motivation can be summed up by "I want to show kids what life was like in Colonial America" or "I want to show kids that drugs can ruin their lives" or "I want to show how to deal with bullies” then the only way to make that idea work is to then match the idea with a compelling plot that has a strong forward progression. The reader must be hanging on, wanting very much to know how this all works out, and it's through plot that we do that. Don’t let your desire to teach something with your book make you forget to have an actual book, a compelling story that grips the reader and makes him/her anxious to know how it all works out.

A sense of depth. Many stories that are motivated by an author who wants to teach something can end up feeling very surface-y. The characters will feel a little too convenient. The villains will be motivated only by their badness. And stereotypes will be the fall back method of creating the characters. Depth means that ALL your characters have honest motivations – that they are doing things for reasons that make sense to them, that feel right to them. Depth means that nothing in the plot happens because it's convenient for the author, but because the logic of the plot and the people in it demand that event. 

Do you want to test your story to see how it's working in the depth department?

Make a list of every character (this might include very brief characters. You can exclude folks like the postman who just happened to say hi as he handed the main character a letter. His motivation is clear. But a character who only enters the story to slap your protagonist in the face – HE needs to have clear motivation.) Beside each person’s name, list three characteristics about them that are shown in the book (if the person is the aforementioned postman, he might not be on the page long enough for three characteristics, but I bet he's there long enough for one.) Then list every major action of the character and why they did it. If you cannot do this, then you have some flat characters. Plump them up. 

Outline your plot. You've written the book, now get out your note cards and make one card for every scene. Make a list of what happens in the scene. Then take a set of cards and write out every non-scene narrative event (this is any place where you tell us stuff). In each non-scene narrative event card, list everything that's told. And how long the narrative event lasts (a paragraph? A page? Two-pages?) Now, ask yourself: what is the plot arc for this story? What are we moving towards? Which of these cards best support that arc? What reader-gripping things do all the other cards do? You may find that all your cards work toward the building plot (I know this is true when I write for kids) or you may find some of them build toward something else compelling. But you may find some of them don’t do anything except slow down time and inform the reader of educational things you think they should be told. Teach through the story. Never stop the story to teach.

So, if you've got a great idea for a book, good for you. But understand, that’s only the very beginning of the journey. It's making it to the end that counts!

Let’s reiterate:

You’re going to need:

  • Characters we can care about
  • A plot that feels purposeful, organized, and compelling.
  • A sense of depth.
  • To make a list of every character.
  • Outline your plot.

Click here to download the show notes with extra resources!

Comments

Andre Priyono
June 10, 2016

Where's the podcast, Katie?

Marge Gower
June 9, 2016

I received a diploma from ICL in 1978 I believe. I'm excited about the podcasts and to have a refresher.

Angela Williams
June 9, 2016

I've completed steps 1 and 2 please enter me in the give-away.

Angela Williams
June 9, 2016

I am excited and look forward to the podcast!

Add Comment

Cool, awesome, packed with tips, tricks, and knowledge.

Andre Priyono (iTunes Review)

Great Read!

By Mara Kim Amazon review, Verified Purchase

"This is another great read from [ICL]... When I saw this particular one, I grabbed it immediately ... This book is a great addition to a writer's (whether published or not) shelf ... I highly recommend their writing courses. You receive feedback on your work from published authors. You will be encouraged but also pushed to make your story from good to great."