10 Top Tips For Starting Your Children’s Book

Get That Book Off the Ground!

We’ve all been told that everyone has at least one book in them. The problem is, much like a friend that’s partied too hard the weekend before, that book doesn’t always want to come out! The very simple fact of the matter, I’m afraid to say, is that it’s usually down to hard work, perseverance and time. Three things that are very difficult to get in the same room at once! So if we accept that we need to work on these three factors, which is definitely possible, what else can we do to get this book out? Here are ten top tips on getting that book written!

children's illustratorLove of the Work

There really is no point in trying to get a book out that simply isn’t there. Just because we have books in us, doesn’t always mean we want it to come out. Why are you writing this story? Does it speak to you? Are you finding yourself getting bored of writing? Take a minute to change! Don’t be precious with the story, if it isn’t working leave it be and move onto something else. Don’t ditch what you’ve already written, you may find that comes in handy later on in your story. But if you aren’t enjoying the story you’re writing, chances are you won’t be the only one. Play around with introducing new ideas, new characters, or a random act that you weren’t expecting. See what can happen!

Research

One of the most important parts of writing a story is making sure you are writing something you, and hopefully others want to read. If you haven’t seen what’s already out there you may just end up spending months of your time writing something that’s already been done! Or worse, something people aren’t reading. You don’t need to follow fashion and fads, but knowing what’s popular and what sells is really important to shaping and framing your work. Make sure you aren’t just writing for popularity though (unless that’s what you want!) as you may find you end up with a story you don’t like just because you think it’ll sell.

A Routine

There’s a fabulous book about writing by Stephen King called “On Writing”. He talks about writing Carrie, his first full novel, on a child’s writing desk in a trailer caravan. He spent the day teaching, and then the evenings cramped into this tiny desk that belonged to one of his kids, writing this story. He originally even threw it away, and his wife retrieved it from the bin and said, well this is going somewhere! But he made sure that every day he wrote something. Find a space you like, a few minutes of peace and create an environment you are comfortable in. Even if you’re uncomfortable, like King, make it the same space each time, try and make it the same time and try and write to a certain amount of time. Don’t get hung up on word counts!

Sacrificing Thingschildren's illustrator

We aren’t talking small birds in creative desperation. Going to meet friends might have to wait a few days, you may need to watch your favourite TV show another time. You don’t need to become a recluse, but be aware that with daily chores and work, plus writing, you may not have all the spare time you normally have. Sacrifice half an hour to an hour a day writing, minimum, and make sure that if meeting up with friends is on the cards, you make up for that lost time later on. Don’t punish yourself, but try to stick to schedule.

An Open Mind

This needs to be throughout the whole process. You need to take criticism, absolutely! If someone, or a few people, tell you their honest opinion just thank them and take it on board. It’s hard as you’ll feel like someone is criticising your children, but you do need to hear what others have to say. You don’t always have to act on it, but make sure you listen and take it on board. These people are spending their time reading your work, so make sure you give them the respect of listening to them. Step away from the story as part of you and see it as its own person, ready to change and adapt if needed.

children's illustratorEncouraging Friends

Leading on from that, if you have friends who understand why you can’t come out, who sit and read your story and give you honest feedback, you’re winning at life. Those friends are very valuable, and to be respected. They will see you through some of the hardest parts of your writing life, and will keep you going when you need it most. These people will help you get that book finished!

Target Audience/Someone to Write For

A lot of writers will write to get the story out. This is exactly what you should do, don’t pressurise yourself into a corner when you don’t like what you’re writing. However, if you are writing this story to be made into a book and sold, remember that you will need to know who it’s aimed at. Sometimes just choosing a target audience helps you to make creative decisions and focus the story when you feel a bit lost. For instance, a YA novel is hardly likely to include stories of teddy bears that are able to talk (although if yours does, make it work to that audience!), and children’s picture books aren’t likely to deal with teenagers falling in love and shoplifting. This also links to the topic of research, seeing what else is available in the genre and style you’re aiming for.

A Reason

Simple really. Why do you want to write this? Any reason is good enough, you’ll know yours. When it gets tough, keep reminding yourself why you’re doing this. Keep on pushing on!

Good illustrator/Deadline

Some people like to be ready to go from the start, with illustrators or publishers lined up. This gives some people a deadline to work towards, so they know they have to have the story finished by X date. This can put some people under too much pressure to perform creatively, but that’s ok! Maybe a deadline of “by the end of the year” or “by next month” helps you. Perhaps even “I want this much done by the time I’m 40” is good enough for you. Just make sure you stick to it and make that deadline work, as when you set the deadline, you are much more inclined to be lenient with yourself…!

Remind Yourself it’s Worth Doing

JUST KEEP GOING! As with the “reason” above, you need to keep telling yourself this is happening for a reason and you are writing this for a purpose. If you find you’re getting blocked, or your way is getting a little out of focus, step back for a few hours. Try not to take too many days off when you’re feeling like this, but go for a walk or have a cup of tea and come back to it. The longer you step away, the harder it is to get back into it. So don’t, just take a few deep breaths, step away for an hour or so, then keep going. Even when you’re stuck, keep writing something. Doesn’t have to be the story – just something is enough!

children book illustrator

Good Luck!

A few of my previous clients

happydesigner clients

  • Sarah has a great insight into how to best produce a children’s book and is really helpful in getting you there! I really cannot recommend Sarah enough – brilliant designer, friendly and professional. The experience has been a great one!“ – Jodie Jackson
  • “Sarah’s advice has been invaluable, she could have just illustrated my first attempt but knew there was more to be had from the story and pointed me towards the right help." – Darron Jon Love

  • “Books arrived safely today- I am absolutely delighted with how they look – I can’t thank you enough – you’ve made my dream come true :)” – Jane Collins

  • “When we first contacted Sarah, Dainty Dizzy was a concept;  an idea to be shaped into a brand.  Sarah took this idea and illustrated it perfectly….and our brand look and feel was born.” – Dainty Dizzy

  • “Sarah’s re-branding of my business has given it a much needed fresh and quirky feel. She provided us with an extremely friendly courteous and efficient service and injected an energy into the project, that only Sarah could.” – Discovery Leisure

  • "Sarah is amazing - very fast at understanding the requirements, great pictures and never too much trouble. I recommend her wholeheartedly" - Fernando Caldeira-Saraiva
  • Sarah is professional, friendly and very knowledgeable, she delivered 100% with a new logo that was spot on! We can't recommend her enough!” - Lucy @ Get Active

  • "It's been great working with Sarah as our illustrator! She's been so great in taking all feedback on board and delivers work of the highest standard. Would 100% recommend :-)" - Michelle Gibbs, Doodle Dozen Series
  • “I was so nervous ringing you as i've never done anything like this before, but you were so friendly and put me completely at ease.” - Donna Purvis

  • "Outstanding illustrator with exceptional talent. You couldn’t wish for a better artist, as it would be impossible to find. Such a spectacular gifted designer who is always happy!" - Rachel Lake

  • "I can’t speak highly enough of Sarah! She has brought Roopert Snoopert to life in a way I could never have imagined.
    The illustrations are fantastic! Sarah keeps you update with progress from the draft stage right through to sign off." - Paul Micklewright
  • Sarah is an extremely talented designer and illustrator. She has that rare gift of being able to find something in your business or character that you never knew existed" Craig Green

  • “I am so happy that I found Sarah to bring my book to life. Sarah took the time to listen and really made the effort to make sure that I was happy and her brilliant designs translated the words of my book into a beautiful visual story." - Jodie Jackson

  • "WOW! Love it! I'm so happy with what you've produced- and with so little input from me. FANTASTIC!!! THANK YOU” - Darren Pascoe: 'Red Rabbit Book'

  • "Sarah understood what I was looking for and produced a fantastic logo for me.  She is very approachable and friendly – I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend her” Katie Jarvis, Fancy Prints

  • "Sarah loves her work, her friendly ‘can do’ approach is reassuring whether you’re on your first or tenth book."  – Darron Jon Love
  • Sarah really understood the brief right from the beginning and has been able to translate my ideas and mental images, that at times were quite specific, into magical illustrations that are better than I’d ever hoped. She has absolutely nailed it!” – Gareth Edwards

  • "She has a keen eye for the quirky detail, she is punctual and a joy to work with. I simply cannot praise her enough.” - Clickety Books

  • "Sarah quickly understood what I wanted to achieve and the look I was after. Sarah kept me informed and brought me into the whole process” – Darron Jon Love

  • "These posters and flyers are perfect”
    - Julia G, Manager at the Truro branch of Pets at Home

  • “Sarah was lovely to work with and keen to make sure that the illustrations were a perfect match for the story. It’s obvious that she really cares about her work and wants you, the author, to be happy with the final results.” – Marion Adams

  • "The logos are absolutely fantastic, they are spot on brief and are even better than we imagined!Paolo Pini, Step Up To Languages

  • "I hope my recommendation will persuade you to use Sarah! I cannot fault her, for her professionalism, enthusiasm and talent." - Michelle Hawkins, Director: The Flying DoDo

  • “Thank you, Sarah, for the amazing work you did on the illustrations for my book. Working with you has been so easy thanks to your enthusiasm, flexibility, support, professionalism and, of course, the amazing quality of your work." – Stuart Neath