Writing Children's Picture Books: Top Ten Tips - Wendy H. Jones


I started out as as author of adult mysteries and branched into adult humorous mysteries and young adult mysteries. I am sure you are sensing a theme here. Then, I was asked to write a children's book. This came completely out of the blue and my initial thoughts were , no way on God's earth could I or am I writing a children's picture book. However, the reason was intriguing and my more rational and sensible self talked me into it. I went from no way to why not. The original Bertie book, Bertie the Buffalo, was based on the true story of a baby water buffalo who went missing from a farm in Fife in Scotland, where he proceeded to roam the countryside evading capture for 14 days. This brings me to my top ten tips. About time I hear you say. Bear with me, I was pinning my credentials to the literary mast if you may allow me to mangle a metaphor. So my tips are:

1. Find a good story, one which hasn't already been done to death and which will excite young readers.

2. Try your hand at rhyme. For many years there was a school of thought that rhyme should not be used as it was too difficult to translate. Here's the kicker - parents and children love rhyme. My thoughts are, it never did Dr Seuss any harm.

3. Use simple language. If you've been writing adult fiction or non-fiction you definitely need to bring it down several notches.

4. At the same time use language which will stretch the child. Children love to learn new words and longer words excite them. Parents also love the idea their child is learning in a fun way.

5. Use repetition. Children will soon learn these repeated lines and will join in. In my Bertie the Buffalo book the last line of several verses is, but Bertie kept on running, really, really fast. Here I have repeated words and a repeated phrase. 

6. Most children's books have a moral and teach the child something in a safe way. In the first book Bertie is looking for a safe place and I use this to teach the importance of looking out for those who are different.

A great big herd of Highland cows, let wee Bertie stay,

You're a very funny cow, but you're welcome anyway.

The whole story is about Bertie not feeling loved at home as he was too small but he realises in the end that home is the best place to be and everyone there loves him. 

In Bertie at the Worldwide Games the child learns about animals, customs and national dress from different countries, as well as the importance of working together with your friends where you will have a lot more fun. 

7. Don't be afraid to explore difficult concepts even if in a simple way. This gives the parent a chance to explore these concepts with the child.

8. Decide what age range the book is for and write to that age. Younger children will still enjoy it, especially the rhythm of the rhyme, and older children will read it to younger children. 

9. Think about major events which the book could be linked to but remember the book needs to be published before this so that you can link into the national events. Bertie at the Worldwide Games is obviously the Olympics but it can also be used to talk about any major sporting event such s Winter Olympics or the Commonwealth Games, or even the Child's sports day.

10. Have fun. Seriously, writing children's picture books is the way to be a child again and is enormous fun.

And a bonus 11th tip as always:

11. Find a good illustrator as it is they who will bring your story to life. My illustrator, Barry Diaper, is amazing. 

if you would like a signed copy of either book you can get it from my website. There is also a colouring book and soft toy. 

About the Author

Wendy H. Jones is an award-winning, international best-selling author who writes adult crime books, young adult mysteries, children's picture books and non-fiction books for writers. She is also a writing and marketing coach, runs the Writing Matters Online School and is the CEO of Authorpreneur Accelerator Academy, The president of the Scottish Association of Writers and hosts The Writing and Marketing Show podcast. She is currently writing a series of historical fiction novels based around the life of a 19th Century Surgeon in the Royal Navy. 


Joy Margetts said…
Thanks Wendy! You make it sound so easy! Love the rhymes. Most get a copy...
Ruth Leigh said…
I LOVE a top ten tips blog! Love it. And this is a corker. Great way to start the day, Wendy
Wendy H. Jones said…
Thank you, Joy. I had fun doin the rhymes.
Wendy H. Jones said…
Ruth, there’s nothing like a top ten tips blog. Thank you for the encouragement.
Kirsten Bett said…
Thank you Wendy. I would love to try writing a picture book. Mainly because it sounds like such fun. Great tips too, cheers, Kirsten
Wendy H. Jones said…
You are welcome. It really is such fun.
Raggy Rat said…
ive been googling fife and what waterbuffalos do - such fun! thanks for the tips x
Wendy H. Jones said…
Raggyrat, you are welcome. Glad you enjoyed it.

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