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!


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

Design against furSt Ives Memory BayEden ProjectSkyRespect for animalsPets at HomeSt Moritz Hotel

  • "Thank you so much Sarah! What a fantastic set of illustrations for the first in our series of children’s books. We can’t wait to work with you on the second book!" Jane Archer-Wilms & Marlies Veenhof

  • “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

  • "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

  • "Yes!!!! Wow…Love it!!! ..thanks so much, I absolutely the character design you have done for us!!! xx” Lisa Dell, Cornish Firewood

  • 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

  • "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

  • "It won’t be a struggle working with Sarah, it’ll be a pleasure. Can’t recommend enough”
    - Richard Quick

  • "Our brand wouldn't be the same without her on-going input. Just fab xx”
    - Justine Rogers, Dainty Dizzy

  • "i really like ur books my mommy reads them 2 me all the time ur really good at drawling and i want 2 be like u when i grow up :-)"  Natassia Flegal (hd fan)

  • "Sarah is quality.  Not just her design but she is a pleasure to work with."
    - Bob Harper, Portfolio Marketing

  • “Logos received with a BIG thanks, Basically I love them all” 
    Helen Chuah, Giggling Baby Products

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

  • "You do have a very positive feel about everything you do. I do wish you continued success in all your work. All the best, SimonSimon James, Famous Children’s Book Illustrator

  • "Sarah provided us with an extremely friendly courteous and efficient service and injected an energy into the project, that only Sarah could" Discovery Leisure

  • "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

  • "I am absolutely THRILLED TO BITS with your illustrations! THEY ARE MAGNIFICENT!”
    - Susanna Jennicrai, Book Author

  • Got home tonight and the books had arrived. Absolutely love them. My girlfriend loves your illustrations.” - Andrew Jeffery: 'Wolfboy Book'

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

  • "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 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