Congratulations on wanting to write for kids. It’s exciting, creative, and challenging.
The most important advice I can give to a writer is to read a lot. Then write something. Then revise. Then repeat. Over and over again.
But, of course, you also need to learn how the industry works, how to pace a picture book, whether or not you find your own illustrator (no!), and all that practical stuff. You need to learn how to write a query letter and how to end your novel for maximum impact. I had to learn all that stuff, too. And, of course, I’m still learning!
I’ll give you a few resources that I think are absolute requirements for beginning writers. I hope they’re useful.
Your best resource is the bookstore. It stocks the newest children’s books, and reading about a million of those will help familiarize you with the kinds of books being published today. Libraries are great, too, of course! But with budget cuts everywhere, so many libraries can afford few new books. If you’re new to writing for kids, you want to focus your reading on books published within the past couple of years. So wherever you can find those books — read them!
Children’s Writers & Illustrators Market Writer’s Digest puts out a new edition every few years. It used to be annual, and it was my bible. In addition to a comprehensive market listing of what kinds of publishers buy what kinds of books, it has lots of helpful articles for the beginner. It’s about $20. You might also be able to get it at your library. I love to mark mine up, though, highlighting various publishers and tips, etc. It was a constant reference book for me in the first 20 years of my writing career!
If you’re interested in writing poetry, check out my Poetry page. I have a bunch of essays under Poetic Pursuits that I wrote on various aspects of writing poetry for kids and teens. If you’re interested in writing nonfiction for the educational market, check out my book, Writing for the Educational Market. It’s a comprehensive workbook based on the online class that I taught for several years.
Writing picture books? Josh Funk’s Guide to Writing Picture Books is awesome! And free. My inexpensive and very practical Picture Books: The Write Way is here (there’s also a rhyming picture books book). And Linda Ashman’s Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books is terrific, too. All three of these books are written by children’s writers with many traditionally published picture books.
Editor Harold Underdown’s site is a treasure trove! Check out the Basic Information, Self-Publishing, and Writing Children’s Books sections, for starters. This should keep you busy for a long time!
Subscribe to a newsletter or magazine. I subscribe to Writer’s Digest.
Join SCBWI if you’re not already a member. Attend conferences if you can. Listen hard. Ask questions, both of speakers and of fellow attendees. SCBWI also offers a terrific, downloadable, huge (350+ pages) book called The Essential Guide to Publishing for Children. They also have a free monthly e‑letter called Insight. Those two benefits alone are worth your first year’s membership!
Connect through social media. Find 5 authors whose work you admire and who write the kinds of books you’d like to write. Follow them on social media (whatever platform/s you prefer). And then engage in discussions by commenting. See who they follow. Maybe you want to follow them, too. Start out slow. You’ll have a community before you know it!.
Also build community through a critique group. Establish a writing group with other writers who write for kids. This might be in-person or online. You can join a crit group through SCBWI or through finding people in a Facebook Group or a local writing center. Just keep telling folks, “I’m looking for a critique group.”
Spend time around kids. I think this is crucial in order to stay in tune with what today’s kids talk like and think like. That really changes over the years. You could volunteer at a school if you’re not already around kids the age of your intended readers.
Write. Write as much as you can, then rewrite. My manuscripts go through many, many revisions before I ever submit them. Once you have the words exactly how you want them, proofread them or hire someone else to proofread your manuscript — or ask someone in your critique group who has excellent punctuation and grammar.
Consult experts! Many, many talented writers and editors also offer freelance critiquing services. Lisa Bullard, with whom I used to run Mentors for Rent, is one of them. You can check out her site to learn more about her. I’m not currently offering critiques nor coaching.
In looking at all these resources, you will likely find some fascinating and some discouraging information. Writing for kids, and especially selling your writing for kids, is not easy. But it’s so worthwhile. Welcome to this crazy world!
Good luck on your writing journey!