To write a children’s book, you have to first know the difference between a story idea and a concept.
A story idea has a clear beginning, middle, and end. Whereas a concept is just an abstract idea like a piece of a setting or the look of a character.
You might be walking around with the coolest kid’s book character in the world in your mind, but without an adventure, journey or lesson, they’re just that: a character.
Make a List
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s get down to the finding that story idea.
It isn’t enough to make a list. We must make a list within a time constraint. Remember Parkinson’s Law?
Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
It is true! If you start making a list of story ideas that you are allowed to walk away from and, say, do the dishes, pet the dog, watch a show, or whathaveyou, then you aren’t committing to completing the process. You may as well be coloring. So…
Step 1: Set a timer for 10 minutes.
Step 2: Ready your paper and pen.*Note: If you are not able to use paper and pen, and you must due to your physical state use a computer or voice capturing software, that’s fine, but otherwise, PEN AND PAPER.
Step 3: Start the timer and empty your brains. This is Braindumping.
Braindumping differs from brainstorming in that it is a list and not a problem-solving exercise.
During this 10-minute brain-dumping session, you’ll empty out all of the details about every children’s book story you may have. All of the concepts in your mind, dump ‘em! Have an actual story idea in there? Dump it!
Putting these ideas and concepts on paper makes them less precious and more approachable, moldable, story-able.
Note — If by the end of the 10-minute timer, you’ve not finished dumping all of your ideas out, set the timer again and again until your pen stops moving.
You Need Colors and/or Shapes for the Next Part — Sorting
You have a magnificent list now! Excellent! But, as I always say,
A list without action is procrastination disguised as productivity.
So, let’s get sorting!
Step 1: Read over your list.
Step 2: Read over your list again and indicate concepts versus story ideas with a marker, highlighter, draw a shape, use stickers, whatever you like.
Note — Remember what we covered right before we went down this rabbit hole. Story ideas have a clear and natural beginning, middle, and end (or at the very least, a beginning and end). Story concepts are just a piece of a story like a character or even a scene.
Step 3: List all of the story ideas on the bottom or back of the page.
This is it! The moment of truth! The place where we find the story you’re going to write.
Step 1: Set a timer for 10 minutes
Step 2: Start the timer and mine your story ideas (not the concepts, but the ideas) for the actual story.
Note — You do the mining process by continuously asking yourself the question “what happens next”. If you can get from the beginning to the end of your story with a few bits in the middle, then guess what — that’s your outline for your story.
Pick the Easiest One
Once the timer goes off, you should have a couple or a few story ideas with rough outlines. Now, all you have to do is pick the easiest one.
Not your favorite idea, but the easiest idea.
This idea can to basically write itself. The goal is to finish writing the first draft because without writing the first draft, you’ll never have a finished book. Pick the easiest idea, and write!
It’s as simple as that friends.
You can use this for longer forms of writing as well including novels, novellas, articles, and essays.
The key to being a writer is, yes, the writing, but more importantly, it is finishing.
If you want to learn more about writing children’s books, you can check out my How to Write a Children’s Book in 7 Days or Less class on SkillShare. You can also find all of my children’s books for pre-k to k readers here.
Thank you for reading