Your first step as a writer, before you ever type those first words of your manuscript, is to discover what you love. Only then can you begin incorporating that passion into a book idea. So how will you find your passion? Read. I know this sounds almost too simple to work, but reading children’s books is one of the most important steps toward becoming a published children’s book writer.
“But I already know my passion,” you say. “I love dogs and volunteer at the animal shelter. That’s what I’ll write about.”
Great, but how are you going to write your book? Will it be a middle grade mystery about dogs disappearing from the shelter? A nonfiction easy reader that explains how to take care of an adopted dog? Or a picture book about a homeless dog who finds a family? (The latter is one of the most common picture book plots I critique. If this is your idea, find out if it’s been done and start thinking about how your story can be unique.) Did you know there are several distinct categories of children’s books? (See Understanding Children’s Book Categories from Picture Books to YA for more on this.) Do you know which age group you want to write for? If so, start reading good books for that age. If you were unaware that children’s books went beyond the picture book format, then read some easy readers, chapter books, and older novels.
Do you think your story needs to be told in first person? Read several books written from this viewpoint so you’ll start incorporating the techniques into your subconscious. Interested in historical fiction? Study recent titles to see how the author worked the details of the time period into the story. Do you love picture book biographies? Check out a stack from the library and note how much of the subject’s life was covered in the book, whether or not the author used dialogue, and how many details were left up to the illustrations.
As you read, you’ll find yourself drawn to a particular type of book over and over. That’s probably what you want to write. But I don’t want you to just read, I want you to learn how to read like a writer.
Sample as many books as necessary until you find your niche. Look for published books that might cover the same topic to make sure your approach is different. The Internet makes this easy: you can search sites like Amazon.com with key words that describe your idea. Also, talk to your local children’s librarian. She’s a terrific source for good books you’ll love. As you’re reading, jot down any book ideas that come to mind. Then start examining those ideas and see which ones are worth writing about.
Tags: passion, what to write about, writing