May 5, 2021-Writing for Kids is our theme this month, and today we’ll touch on the importance of outlining your children’s picture book. Outlines are essentially blueprints for your story, and some people make the error of thinking that because of the length of picture books that they’re simple to write and that no outline is needed, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Every story needs an outline, and writing for kids aged 3-7 is actually more difficult than writing a full-sized novel because you only have about 850 words to explain your story, develop your characters, and wrap it up with a bow. Here are 5 steps to outlining:
- Introduction– Start where the action is! This goes for every book that we write, not just kid’s books. We need to grip the reader from the very first pages because children have short attention spans, and we need to keep their attention for them to finish our story. We introduce the protagonist right away.
- Rising Action-This is where we build up to the climax by introducing a problem or challenge. This is something that the protagonist overcomes, and here we introduce the antagonist that stands in the way of the main character getting what they want.
- Climax-Here’s where the rubber meets the road. The challenge is clear, and it’s at a boiling point (think Hansel and Gretel when the witch tries to trick them into climbing into the oven, but Gretel pushes the witch in instead!).
- Falling Action-The protagonist defeats the antagonist, and the adrenalin in the story returns to normal. The character gets to take a deep breath and return to normal life.
- Ending-The challenge/conflict is resolved, questions are answered, and there’s a happy ending; the lost pet is found, the monster under the bed is now a friend, and the very bad cat is caught and bathed.
When writing for kids, be sure that you create an in-depth outline. Outlining also stops you from painting yourself into a corner that you can’t get out and lets you know if an idea doesn’t work. It allows you to see the story as a whole and shines a light on what you could be missing.
To find out more information on writing for kids, check out our Children’s Book Writing Masterclass: Children’s Book Writing Master Class – Pandamonium Publishing House
May 4, 2021– We thought that we should chat about comic books in honour of May the 4th (be with you)! Many people often think that comic books don’t count when writing for kids, but they do! Anything that kids are going to read let them read. Kids are growing up in a visual culture, so as a children’s author, do not discount the power of comic book writing. Also, remember that your comic book could be used as a teaching tool in schools and the marketing opportunities are endless. Today’s TedTalk is: Comic books and graphic novels belong in every teacher’s toolkit, says cartoonist and educator Gene Luen Yang. Set against the backdrop of his own witty, colourful drawings, Yang explores the history of comics in American education — and reveals some unexpected insights about their potential for helping kids learn. Check out our own take on a comic book for kids, Cake for Snakes, available here: Cakes for Snakes!: Bakker, Lacey L., Goubar, Alex: 9781989506325: Books – Amazon.ca
May 3, 2021– Today, we kick off a month-long series about writing kid’s books! We’re going to teach you what you need to know when writing for kids and this whole series complements what you’ll learn in our Children’s Book Writing Masterclass available here: Children’s Book Writing Master Class – Pandamonium Publishing House
Here are three not so typical ways to find inspiration for writing kids books:
- Take an idea and pare it down to the bones. What is your child struggling with? What are they afraid of? What questions do they ask? Chances are that if your child is asking these questions and has these challenges, that other children are too. Take a complex idea like bedwetting and break it down into a single, simplified idea.
- Blow it up. Make things larger than life. I’m talking about whales in swimming pools, pizzas that are so large they could feed an entire town, and seven-foot ants that are terrorizing a city. The bigger, the better.
- Don’t be afraid to go there. Talk about death, talk about bullying, talk about step-siblings and any other issues that can be sticky but matter. Kids are a lot smarter than we give them credit for, and while we don’t want them to grow up too fast, we need to touch on subjects of importance to them. Keep it age-appropriate and speak to them in a way they will understand, but don’t dumb it down.
Using the above information, let’s do an example; feel free to write your own after brainstorming a few ideas!
Bare Bones Idea: Bedwetting
Blow it Up: A monster that struggles with bedwetting but has a solution (a checklist before bed), e.g. No drinks after a certain time, favourite stuffed animal, nightlight, a flashlight to check in the closet and under the bed, signing a nice song, and reading a fun book etc.
Go There: Nightmares. The monster has nightmares, and that’s why he wets the bed.
Synopsis: Cliff is a big, green, furry monster who needs help at bedtime. Some nights Cliff has bad dreams about giant slices of pizza chasing him, and sometimes Cliff has accidents. But with the help of his monster mom, he has a special trick for chasing the bad dreams away and making bedtime fun!
Of course, this was off the cuff and something that I thought of quickly. It would need to be refined, but you get the idea. So, start writing! What are you waiting for?
March 25, 2021– Happy Thursday, Friends! We’ll be wrapping up our most asked questions in the next week, and we hope that you learned some new things. On April 1st, we’ll be starting a brand-new theme called, “How to push the envelope in your writing” and we certainly hope you’ll join us. Let’s jump into today’s question.
Q: “Lately I’ve been feeling really uninspired in my writing. I want to write a children’s book, but I can’t seem to come up with any good ideas. You’ve written a lot of kid’s books, where do you get ideas from?”
A: Sometimes it’s hard to be inspired I agree, but if we look around, we can find plenty of ideas. A lot my children’s book subject matter comes from real life experience and people that I’m close to. My nephews and niece inspire me like crazy; they range in age from 17 years old to 3 months and the toddlers tend to have amazing ideas that make it onto my books. For example, most recently I wrote a book called Cakes for Snakes and it came about at my kitchen table in the Pandamonium Publishing House Tour Bus; my three-year-old nephew, Denver asked, “Auntie, who makes cakes for snakes?” I grabbed a pen and started taking notes. We’re formatting Cakes for Snakes in a whole new way as a full colour comic book for kids with the one and only Alex Goubar, stay tuned for more information on a release date! Check in with your friends and family (especially the kiddos) and think about changing your environment. You can head to the park, the outdoor bike/walking trails, the mall, and other places to find inspiration around every corner. Be sure to ask yourself questions. I wrote The Extreme! Supreme! Dogwalker, Darlene after walking my own pup, Luna. I thought to myself, what would make someone an ultimate dogwalker? What tools would they have to make their job easier? What would they do to keep the dogs occupied? Etc. Jot down every idea because you never know where it will lead. Keep in mind when writing for kids, the crazier the plot and the bigger and more exaggerated the story, the better. Another tip is to pick up books that inspired you as a child and read them once again; what did you love about them? What parts spoke to you the most? And so on.
If you need help with writing for kids, let me mentor you! Check out my masterclass here: Children’s Book Writing Master Class – Pandamonium Publishing House
Remember, discipline beats motivation every single time. Even though you aren’t inspired it’s important to sit down and write. Put the words on the page. Happy Writing! X LLB