Saturday, March 09, 2013

Writing Children's Books for Dummies

 Here's something a little different for today-- a review of a book on how to write books. Like my interview with Andrew Karre of Darby Creek Publishing, I found that this book shed a lot of light on a process that I don't think about too much. Even if you aren't thinking about writing a children' book (all two of you out there!), this gives a lot of interesting information about the path toward publication.

Writing Children's Books for DummiesBuccieri, Lisa Rojany and Economy, Peter.
Writing Children's Books for Dummies, 2nd edition, 17 December 2012
Copy provided by author

The only thing wrong with books in this series is that they should really be call "The Definitive Guide to..." The "dummies" designation is needlessly self-deprecating for books that offer huge amounts of invaluable information. The recently updated version of this book is no exception.

It would be helpful if every aspiring children's author read this book. Part I is devoted to understanding children's literature and the market for it. I especially liked that this outlined not only what kind of books publishers are looking for, but also addressed that librarians, parents and teachers need to be taken into consideration because we are often the ones who provide books to children. Very keen insights into what all the various subgroups want to see in a book.

Part II addresses setting up a writing space, and talks about the process of writing, including researching your audience and subject. Again, this is something authors really need to do. Part III and IV concentrate on the writing process, and were extremely helpful. I intend to work through many of the exercises, such as creating a character Bible, and outlining character arcs. Even though many of the writing techniques could be used for different types of writing, it was great that everything is geared for writing for children.

The last part is invaluable-- step by step guide to the convoluted process of bringing your book to the attention of agents and, eventually, publishers. This book is certainly an indispensable tool for writers, and should be kept on the writer's desk right next to a copy of the real Roget's Thesaurus.

Admittedly, I have two chapters of a middle grade novel written, but I know very well how difficult the path to actual publication is. When I review books, I am always torn. Part of me is very critical of all writing because I want my students to have books they will love. The other part of me is impressed that the author managed to write an entire book and get it published.

Even though I am a professional reader, I was the sort of child who wanted to be a writer. In college, I thought I could be a poet. (What? You missed my one publication in Writer's Digest in 1985?) At this point, I may have read about opined about too many books-- I have so many criteria for the perfect book that it would be impossible to write. Rest assured, if I do start to write in earnest, I will keep the process to myself!


  1. I love the Dummies books. When you write more chapters of your MG and get it published, I'll be looking forward to reviewing it:)

  2. Blogging is the most writing I will ever do. Started in first grade with ... it was some sort of tv show. A "writing bug club" of some sort where every week we'd watch it and our homework would be to finish the story starter given at the end. OH THE STRESS! As a first grader!
    Continued on since then. Just finished a batch of essay questions and it about drove me up the wall.
    Apparently I have no original ideas. I just like to enjoy others. "I'm a reader not a writer."
    But I sure am grateful for those who have good ideas!