The Writing Process: Creating a Children’s Picture Book

More Tales from the Teddies of Rosehill Cottage - Maggie Shaw - Eregendal

More Tales from the Teddies of Rosehill Cottage is a picture book sequel, the second collection of five short stories in the series The Teddies of Rosehill Cottage. Like the stories in the first of series, the five tales are all loosely based on what happened to some of the teddies and toys in our household collection. These toys really do sit together on a 1970s Ercol trolley in our hall, but the house around them is quite different to the picturesque black and white cottage in the stories. A thatched cottage in rural Cheshire makes a much more striking cover image than a house on a 1970s suburban estate.

When creating a book for young children, you are writing not only to engage the young ones – you also need to appeal to the adults who will pay for your books. The stories need to be simple enough for children to understand, but also with enough depth for the adult reading the book to be able to explore some of the issues raised with the child. That is why, at the end of each tale, a simple question is raised to be used as a discussion point. For instance, at the end of the second tale is the question: ‘How do you think Mini Ted felt when she had to jump down into Papa Ted’s and Mama Ted’s arms to escape?’ This can open up a discussion about trust, loyalty and overcoming fear, depending on the child’s own experiences.

When writing for children, it is important to make every word count. Young children easily get bored and distracted. The themes should cover issues children can relate to. Simple words can convey complicated ideas by stacking short sentences to build the situation. The main characters should all be identifiable: give each their own personality and don’t just rely on the images to describe them. Each story should also have a clear beginning, middle and end.

The illustrations in More Tales were all created using photos, either taken at home or supplied through a pro subscription to Canva. These were then modified using Canva, Paint 3D and Adobe Creative Cloud. Usually the text dictated the illustrations. However, sometimes the illustrations forced small changes in the text as home photos and stock images have their limitations. So the charity shop mentioned in the third story of More Tales changed door colour from the original blue to bright red. To make sure the pictures do tell the same story as the text, it is always a good idea to get someone else to read through your final draft before the book goes to print.

After finishing a children’s book, run the text through an editing program like ProWritingAid or Grammarly to check the reading age, and simplify where necessary. A professional editor can also be very useful in helping to adjust the book for the target reading age, and should also pick up those annoying typos which otherwise would be invisible until after the book has been published.

There is a lot more to creating a good children’s story picture book than many people think. But it is very rewarding, and I love the contrast between the gentle style of writing required for children compared with the devious and often violent action style of my historical adventure novels.

Happy writing!

Maggie.

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