Before you begin penning that great idea you have for your children’s story, defining the following basics about your children’s story will increase it’s marketability as well as the likelihood that it will do more than stay in the bottom of a desk drawer.
Here are the questions to ask yourself about your children’s story:
1. Is it a reader or a picture book?
Children’s picture books come in many shapes and sizes, and target a wide age range, from newborns up to 10 year olds. As is evident in the name, picture books predominantly feature full-page illustrations. Text is somewhat minimal in comparison to the number of pictures, and quite often the art is the main selling point. If you envision your story with full picture illustrations on every page, then you may have just written a picture book. However, keep in mind that picture books are on average 1,000 words, and approximately 30 pages in length. A 300 + page story will most likely not be considered for publishing as a picture book.
Readers on the other hand predominantly feature stories. While there may be a few illustrations throughout, on the whole, it primarily consists of text—i.e., your story. As such, the target age for readers spans a higher age range than that of picture books.
2. What is the target age?
Children of varying ages will enjoy vastly different kinds of stories. A child of one to two years of age will enjoy stories that deal with the kinds of situations that arise in his or her life. For example, stories of getting potty trained or of discovering one’s world abound for children in the toddler age. Stories for children six years of age would not deal with the same scenarios that frequent stories for those under the age of three. Instead, likely stories for six year olds are those that involve going to school, coping with learning new skills, friendship and peer issues, etc.
As you can see, defining the target age of your story will also help you understand whether your story will be appealing for children of that age, or whether a modification of target age for your story is needed.
3. Is it for boys or girls?
Boys and girls generally like and are interested in different things. This not only applies to tastes in hobbies, games, color choices, and clothing preferences, but also extends to the kinds of stories that excite and catch their interest.
Boys generally like stories that feature adventure, danger, and risky situations, while girls prefer stories that revolve around character development. While this is a generalization, and there are girls who like and read stories that were originally intended for boys, and visa versa, understanding which gender your story is primarily targeting will help you evaluate whether it is really hitting the mark for that demographic.
4. Can you summarize the plot of your story in one sentence?
Before you begin writing, ask yourself if you know how it will end. Try to summarize the entire plot of your story in one sentence. If you’re unable to complete this exercise, chances are the particulars of your story are hazy. That’s fine, as most stories need work and many versions before a vastly improved final product is produced. But as you write, refer back to this question as it will help your story stay on track.
Answering the above questions will help you clarify aspects of your story that will make it easier for you as you write, and eventually as you look for a publishing venue. Happy writing and publishing!