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How to Write a Children's Book: Length, Language and Ideas | Literature & Latte

Writing books for children can be very rewarding. With simpler plots and characters, and less demanding language, children's books give writers a chance to focus on shorter, tighter structures, less ambiguous writing, and simpler dialog.

How to Write a Children's Book

If you have young children, or remember when you did - or when you were one yourself - you know how much children love books, from the earliest board books to more complex chapter books. You can get children's book ideas from your own kids (observe them and note what interests them), or from your memories, and you can even try out your books on your children to see if your plots work.

If you have ideas for children's books, it's time to flesh them out. 

Age ranges and word counts for children's books

The first thing you need to consider when writing children's books is the age you want to write for. This affects the type of language used, the number of words in a book, and whether it has illustrations. If you are an illustrator, or know one you want to work with, then it might be a good idea to start with picture books. If you feel more comfortable writing for older children, then pick an age range.

- Picture books are for the youngest readers, around ages 3–8. These generally have 32 pages, and around 500 words; you can have more or less, depending on the illustrations, but books for this age rarely exceed 1,000 words.
- Books for early readers, ages 5–9, can be from about 1,000 to 2,500 words. 
- First chapter books, for ages 7–10, can range from around 4,000 to 15,000 words.
- Middle-grade books, for ages 8-12, have a wider range, from 15,000 to 25,000 for young middle-grade books to as much as 60,000 words for upper middle grade. 
- Young adult novels, for ages 12 and up, can be as long as many adult novels. More than 60,000 words is common, and as many as 90,000 is possible. 

How to use language when writing a children's book

Children's books should speak to readers in a voice they understand, but should not talk down to them. It's important to match your choice of vocabulary to the intended age group for the book, but it's also fine to add some words that the children might not know. Keep it simple, but also keep it lively. Short, active sentences are best for younger readers, and, as the age of the reader increases, you can step it up and use more complex syntax. 

When writing children's books for the youngest audiences, think that the story and language should be fun. Early readers are just discovering language, and using rhymes and other playful language helps them get into the story. Young children want to read books over and over, and the language you use should allow that to be possible without boring them. 

Ideas for children's book stories

Plots of children's books need to be simple, and they should also present ideas that are positive, such as love, sharing, kindness, friendship, or acceptance. Even the youngest children already understand these concepts, and presenting them in simple stories helps them internalize the ideas. 

Children want stories where they can identify with the characters, where they become the hero of the story. The characters need to seem real, but when writing children's books for the youngest readers, animals are great choices. Even if the reader doesn't know the animal, and may never encounter it, using animals as characters makes the book seem a bit more magical. 

If you use children as characters, it can help to make them a bit older than the target reader's age. Readers look up to older siblings, and having characters slightly older can help make them seem realistic. 

You should use situations that the children can understand, but that doesn't mean that good children's book ideas have to take place in the real world. Fantasy and magic are part of childhood, and if a book is set in Whoville, or if the story is about going on a bear hunt, the children will feel just as comfortable as if it was set at their school. As children get older, it's best to have more realistic situations, focusing on school, summer camp, or sports, so the children can place themselves into the story. 

Using Scrivener to write children's books

Scrivener is the best app for writing children's books, whether they are short or long. With its innovative Binder, where you store files and folders, its integrated outliner, and its corkboard, you can plan and write any type of book. Children's books generally have short chapters, and each chapter can be a file in the Binder that you can work on independently. Scrivener's character sheets allow you to sketch out your characters, and the app's name generator helps you find names for characters. You can use Scrivener's advanced statistics to ensure that you meet your word count, and the app's word frequency tool lets you see which words you use, and how often. If you have ideas for children's books, Scrivener may be the best tool for you. 

Scrivener is writing software designed for you to get writing – and keep writing. Scrivener is the go-to program for writers of all genres, with best-selling novels, screenplays, nonfiction books, student essays, academic papers and more being written with it every day. Scrivener won’t tell you how to write; instead, it will give you everything you need to get started and keep writing, letting you mould the app to how you work best. Why not take a look?

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