How To Write A Children’s Book (with a free How to Write a Children’s Book Template PDF)

It can be daunting to figure out how to write a children’s book, but it doesn’t have to be! If you know how to come up with ideas for writing a children’s book, the right structure to use, how to develop characters, and other steps, you can craft a captivating story that children will love. 

To help you out, this blog article provides you with a comprehensive guide and a free How to Write a Children’s Book template PDF you can download to help you create your own children’s book.

It’s important to write a high-quality children’s book that kids will love, but children’s books have distinct characteristics. As an author, you need to know these! This article will guide you through the steps of writing your children’s books, including:

  1. Know your children’s book category
  2. How to find your children’s book idea
  3. The plot and structure of a children’s book
  4. The importance of your children’s book character 
  5. The goal or problem your character will face
  6. The obstacles your character has to overcome 
  7. Revision
  8. Book dummy and mockups
  9. The next steps:
  10. Marketing Your Children’s Book
  11. Editing
  12. Children’s book illustrations
  13. Book design (aka formatting
  14. Publishing Your Children’s Book

Reasons To Use The How to Write a Children’s Book Template

Using the How to Write a Children’s Book template PDF will help you come up with ideas for writing a children’s book and provide you with the structure and guidelines to help you write your story and become a published children’s book author!

This template helps you start off on the right foot and makes it easier to craft a story that is engaging and flows well. It also allows you to plan and organize your story better, as it provides you with the principles of how to write a children’s book that is memorable and that children will enjoy. Use it to write your book and future books!

But don’t skip this article! It will help you get the most out of the template!

You can download the How to Write a Children’s Book template PDF here.

Know Your Children’s Book Category 

One of the first steps of writing a children’s book is to know the different children’s book categories. The category is determined by the age group you are writing for, but there are also different categories within the same age groups. Knowing your category means knowing your audience and the age group you’re writing for, so you can meet the industry standards with your book. It also means you can check out the books that are already published and learn more about the market, but also see what sells well and get some inspiration for your own book.

Because kids grow and learn fast, their interests and ability to understand change as their age changes. So it’s important to ensure your book’s story, topic and vocabulary are suitable for the age group you’re writing for.

Here is a quick overview of the different children’s book categories:

Board books: For babies and toddlers aged 0 to 4

Short, colorful books with simple stories, concepts, or interactive features like flaps and textures.

Examples: “Melissa & Doug Children’s Book – Poke-a-Dot: Old MacDonald’s Farm” and “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” by Bill Martin Jr and Jihn Archambault

Early Picture Books: For kids aged 2 to 5

With under 500 words and plenty of illustrations, these books cover stories, concepts, activities, and novelties.

Examples: “Maybe” by Kobi Yamada and “Dragons Love Tacos” by Adam Rubin

Picture Books: For kids aged 5 to 8

Longer stories with up to 800 (or even 1000) words and vibrant illustrations. Picture books are intended to be read by an adult to a child.

Examples: “The Magical Yet” by Angela DiTerlizzi and “The World Needs Who You Were Made to Be” by Joanna Gaines

Early (or Easy) Readers: For kids aged 4 to 8

Short, Illustrated Books: With 1000 to 3000 words, often in series, to help kids practice reading by themselves.

Examples: “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr Seuss and “Ice Cream Soup” by Ann Ingalis

Chapter Books: For kids aged 6 to 9

Longer books, ranging from 5000 to 10,000 words per book, often in series.

Examples: “Ivy and Bean” series by Annie Barrows and “My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish” by Mo O’Hara

Middle Grade Books or Novels: For kids aged 9 to 12

Advanced stories with 30,000 to 50,000 words per book, fewer illustrations.

Examples: “Wish” by Barbara O’Connor and “Alone” by Megan E. Freeman

Young Adult Books: For teens aged 12 to 18

Typically, longer books with 50,000 to 80,000 words, appealing to both teenagers and adults.

Examples: “Red Queen” by Victoria Aveyard and “As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow” by Zoulfa Katouh

Nonfiction Children’s Book:

Available for all the above age groups, covering a wide range of topics with illustrations or photos.

Examples: “Welcome to Our World” by Moira Butterfield (2-5 years), “Super Cool Space Facts” by Bruce Betts (6-9 years), “Fungarium: Welcome to the Museum” by Ester Gaya and “National Geographic Readers: Sea Turtles”

Knowing which age group you’re writing for and the category of your book is essential to draft a book that appeals to your target audience and to know who you are marketing to. So don’t skip this step!

How to Find Your Children’s Book Idea

In brainstorming ideas for writing a children’s book, it’s important to consider the kind of story you want to tell. You might focus on a particular theme, such as adventure, friendship or courage, or explore a certain moral or lesson. Regardless of the theme or moral, your primary focus must be on making your story engaging for the young reader.

When writing a children’s book, the reader’s enjoyment is the first priority. This means focusing on the main characters and an exciting or entertaining plot. Even if your story has a moral or message, the moral or message should be secondary. If it is subtle and entertaining, it will be more likely to be remembered.

A great way to come up with or improve ideas, is to ask, “What if?” Take an existing idea or any ordinary scenario, and ask “what if…”. This can give you exciting twists to incorporate into your draft. “What if your character had a superpower? What if the story happened under the ocean? What if it happened in the future? How would that look? What if the character didn’t follow the rules? And then what would they do next?”

You can also re-imagine a famous story.

Once you have created a basic idea of what you want your story’s content to be, it’s time to write your story. 

The Plot and Structure of a Children’s Book

When writing a children’s book, plot and structure are key. Think about the story arc and how it will unfold from beginning to end. Keeping structure in mind from early on will help you organize your ideas and make sure that the story flows well and is easy to follow. Without this, the story could become confusing. Also, remember to download the template to help you. You can use it on your computer or printed.

Your plot should have a clear beginning, middle, and end. For example, your story might start in a creepy house, the middle could move outside to the garden, and the end could be at bath time in the evening. 

A typical children’s book plot looks like this:

The set-up can be very short and is where you introduce the main character(s) and set the scene for the story. 

The inciting incident is where your character decides they want to achieve something, or something happens to them, which sets the story into motion. This is where the action starts.

From here, the action builds as the character attempts to reach their goal. 

The climax is the point of highest tension. This is the do-or-die moment where your character fails or succeeds.

After this, there is diminishing action where you tie up any loose ends, or we may see how the adventure changed your character.

Last, we have a satisfying resolution. Children’s books should always have a satisfying ending that wraps the story up. No cliffhangers!

Once you have the plot down, think about the pacing of the story. You want to keep your reader engaged and make sure the story doesn’t become too slow or too fast. Use techniques like cliffhangers to help keep the reader’s interest and make sure the story doesn’t become predictable. 

Finally, consider the structure of each scene or chapter of the book. In children’s picture books, each spread (an open book where we see two pages is called a “spread”) is a scene. In longer books, scenes are longer, but chapters must not be too long, so as not to overwhelm the reader. Regardless of which type of book you are writing, each scene should have a clear purpose and move the reader’s journey forward, so they will keep reading.

It is important to think about the child’s age when crafting your story. Make sure the language and concepts you use are appropriate for the age range of your intended audience. Similarly, the pacing of your story should be suitable for the young reader.

If you’re feeling stuck, download the free How to Write a Children’s Book template PDF to help you with your content and structure. It can help you organize your thoughts and ensure you don’t forget any important elements of the story.

The Importance of Your Children’s Book Character 

A well-structured, believable and memorable main character is essential, so that your readers can easily connect with them. Without a relatable main character, readers won’t connect with your story, since they experience the story’s journey through the main character.

This is so important that many successful series are built solidly on the main character’s likeability.

Think about their personality, motivations, and goals. What obstacles do they face, and how do they overcome them? 

best children's books

Mo Willem’s Elephant and Piggie

Paddington Bear by Michael Bond (illustrated by R.W. Alley)

Ideas For Character Development 

When developing your characters, think about their age, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, and any other characteristics that will make them stand out. How do they interact with other characters and how are they affected by the events that occur? 

Learn more about character development in the Develop your characters section of this article.

You can also use this Quick Character Generator to help!

The Goal or Problem Your Character Will Face

When writing a children’s book, one of the most important things to consider is the overall problem that your protagonist faces. Your main character should be deeply invested in this problem, as it will drive the story forward and keep the readers engaged. For a story to be truly engaging, it needs a conflict at the heart of it. Without this, there isn’t really a reason to keep reading.

The conflict can be simple or complex, but it must be personal to the protagonist and a problem that they must solve. This makes your story, as the main character goes on a journey and runs into obstacles they must overcome in order to solve this overall problem. The problem instigates the character’s grand adventure.

A great way to create a sense of adventure in your story is to make sure that the protagonist’s journey is full of unexpected turns and thrilling moments. Give them a goal or problem and then put them in a situation where they must use their courage, intelligence and wit to get out of it. 

It’s also important to make sure that the stakes are high and that you keep the reader on their toes as they follow the protagonist’s journey. 

As you write your story, remember that conflict is essential to any great adventure. It brings the story to life and provides the reader with an exciting journey to take with the protagonist. So make sure that the main character faces a problem that they must overcome. By doing this, you will create an engaging and thrilling children’s book.

The Obstacles Your Character Has To Overcome 

In facing the key problem, or attempting to reach their goal, the main character will run into challenges. Think about the obstacles your character(s) will face throughout the story and how they overcome them. These obstacles cause the conflict and tension that are so crucial to making a good story. This is where we get the building action of your story. 

Usually, for children’s picture books, the character will face three obstacles. So they’ll fail when they face the first obstacles, and then only succeed (or fail) when they face the final, biggest obstacle at the climax of your book. Facing these obstacles can cause internal or external conflict. The internal conflict is the struggle that the character faces within themselves and is often the greatest conflict of all, while the external conflict is the struggle that they face against outside forces. Check out some published picture books for examples of this.

Revision

Once you’ve written your story, you need to revise. Neil Gaiman gives wonderful advice about this: “The best advice I can give on this is, once it’s done, to put it away until you can read it with fresh eyes. Finish the short story, print it out, then put it in a drawer and write other things. When you’re ready, pick it up and read it, as if you’ve never read it before. If there are things you aren’t satisfied with as a reader, go in and fix them as a writer: that’s revision.”

The difference between an okay book and a great one is revision, revision, revision. Professional authors revise their work many times, and if you want to publish wonderful work, so should you. It is a crucial part of the publishing journey.

If you want to be guided through the many steps of revision in detail, have a look at the Unlock Your Picture Book Course.

Book dummy and Mockups

If you are writing a children’s picture book, once you are happy with your story, create a book dummy! This is an extremely helpful tool for a picture book author, because unlike a novel or other books, what text goes on what spread is very intentional.

First, create your book dummy.

Then, write your text throughout the book dummy, as you envision it will be in your book. It doesn’t matter where on each page you write it, only that you divide it up spread by spread as you think will work well.

Then, use your book dummy to check:

  • Pacing: Does the story move forward on each spread?
  • Pacing: Are there sections where the story is moving forward too slowly?
  • Pacing: Does the story start fast enough? (It should start by the third spread.)
  • Pacing: Does the story end fast enough? (After the tension is resolved, there should only be one or two spreads to wrap everything up.)
  • Page turns: Does every spread make you want to turn the page?
  • Text: Are there any pages with too much text?
  • Illustrations: Are there any spreads where you’d like to remove all text and only have illustrations?

Mockups are an optional step, but you can create a mood board and get an idea of what your characters and book illustrations will look like. This article can help you decide which types of illustrations you would like for your children’s book.

You can also think about the font, word placement, and any other details that will make your story stand out. You can also leave these steps to your illustrator and book designer.

The Next Steps

If you want to go through an agent or traditional publisher to get your book on the market, the next step is to find one. In this case, don’t do the steps below, as your publisher will take care of these for you. Be aware that it can take a long time to find a publisher, and then it will take at least one year before they publish your book. While they market books they publish, check exactly what marketing they’ll do. Also, read up about royalty share and the other details about working with a publisher.

If you will self-publish, the steps below are your next steps once your manuscript is done.

Marketing Your Children’s Book

Marketing is a big subject that we won’t cover in this article (but we’ll keep adding articles to this blog about marketing, so keep an eye out!). The only advice I’ll give here is that you can never start to market too early. Don’t wait until you publish to start because then it is really hard to build momentum. Start today!

Children’s Book Editing

Hire a professional editor to check the book. A professional editor will help ensure that the book is well-written by pointing out and guiding you on any issues with the plot, character development, writing craft, etc. This is crucial, so your book becomes the best it can be. Some will even check if there is a market for your book.

Also get proofreading to clean up any spelling and grammatical errors.

Children’s Book Illustrations

Illustrations are a key part o children’s books, especially for younger kids, and bring the story to life. Choose an illustrator that not only has beautiful art, but has experience in illustrating children’s books and who communicates and understands you well. So, check their portfolio, past books, reviews and communication skills.

For illustrations, it’s best to follow a four-step illustration process you can find here. This will give you the most professional outcome. You can also learn more about how illustrations are completed and how to work with an illustrator here.

Book Design

Once the illustrations are complete, the book design process will begin, where the book interior and cover are laid out and designed. Your book designer will also select the typefaces, colours, and overall look and feel of the book. Be sure to choose a designer that specialises in children’s books, and check their portfolio.

Examples of book illustration and interior design by GetYourBookIllustrations: “Turtley in Love” by Victoria Bailey and “Hunting Orange: A Mixing Colour Adventure” by Moza A. Himid

Publishing Your Children’s Book

After the book is ready to go, it is time to publish! Most self-publishing authors publish on KDP and IngramSpark, but you can research other options, like Draft2Digital, Lulu and Blurb

Publishing is a process on its own. Learn more about it in our other blog posts, in this How to Publish a Picture Book article and I Want To Write A Children’s Book. Where Do I Start? Article.

For more comprehensive, step-by-step guidance, have a look at the Self-Publish Like a Pro Course here.

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By following the above steps, you, the aspiring children’s book author, can ensure that your book is properly edited, illustrated and designed, and will be ready for a successful publishing journey.

Closing 

With the knowledge in this article and using the free How to Write a Children’s Book template PDF, you’re on your way to becoming a successful children’s book author! The template will guide you through the steps of planning and writing your children’s book and you’ll even get a character interview you can do to develop your main character! With the right ideas, structure, characters and illustrations, you can create a captivating children’s book with a story that flows and will be a hit among your readers.

If you’re looking for more information on how to write a children’s picture book, invest in the Unlock Your Picture Book course. This course helps aspiring authors like you (and even published authors) learn the ins and outs of writing and revising a children’s picture book, to make it the best it can be. With the step-by-step guidance in the course, you can have your book published and ready for readers in no time!

We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

  1. What category of children’s book are you planning to write with the help of the How to Write a Children’s Book template?
  2. What else would you love to learn about writing or publishing a children’s book? Which other template would you love to have?

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42 Comments

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