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How I Write a Children’s Book – Part 9

We are quickly coming to the end of our story. I’m sure by now most of you know how it will end, but we’re here for the long run. Slappy now realizes he’s the one “person” who can save the baby pigeon.

In our final pages Slappy will come to the realization that he doesn’t need to fly, he’s unique as is. He will realize that being a plain-old-penguin is pretty special.

 

Page 25 : He dove into the water, flapping his flippers as fast as he could.
(Slappy diving into the water. On the water’s edge a woman says “Look at that penguin go!”, while a nearby man says “Wow!”. A child says “Mommy! Look!” )

Page 26 : Slappy just knew he could save the pigeon. He swam faster and faster.
(Slappy zipping through the water with a look of determination. )

Page 27 :Being underwater, he could see the pigeon above him nearby. The pigeon was fluttering his little wings trying to swim.
(View from Slappy’s perspective seeing the pigeon above him with ripples in the water as he splashes about.)

Read more »

How I Write a Children’s Book – Part 8

Let’s continue on with our story. When we left last our little penguin, he was daydreaming about what he would do if he could fly. It’s time we turn our daydreamer into a hero.

As discussed, our victim is a baby pigeon who will fall into the pond from it’s nest. We will setup our penguin to save the pigeon, and become a hero.

Instead of blathering about what we will do, let’s jump in and do it.

Page 20 : Slappy opened his eyes and sat up, “It was only a dream.” He said, sadly.
(Slappy sitting up,  depressed.)

Page 21 : He stood up, and stretched his flippers as he looked out over the wide pond. He looked at all the birds flying around the pond.
(Slappy looking out over the pond with all the birds flying around.)

Page 22 : He was about to go for a walk when he saw something happening across the pond. There was a mama pigeon crying and flapping her wings.
(View across the pond with mama pigeon frantically flapping her wings.) Read more »

How I Write a Children’s Book – Part 7

I want talk a moment about verbiage. In the beginning I mentioned that the grade level of the words did not matter at the first draft time. Although this is true, for me, I wanted to let you know the process I use to check these words. The Children’s Writers Word Book is a fantastic resource to find words, and learn what grade level they fall into. It also has a thesaurus for similar words and what grade level they are. Here are two words that I think may need to be replaced.

Imagined

“Slappy closed his eyes, and imagined what it would be like to fly through the air.”
The word “Imagined” is considered a 2nd grade word. If I wanted to change it, I have the option of using a kindergarten level word like “pictured”(K), or a 1st grade word like “thought’. Here I’m going to disagree with the book. (What?) I believe that young children today know what “imagination” is. It’s used in SO MANY kids shows that it’s no longer bound to a 2nd grade reading level. So, no change here. (Side note: I could change it to dreamed, but I did not want to imply he was sleeping)

Retrieve

“If I could fly, I could retrieve other things that get stuck in trees, like footballs, hats, and kites …”
The word “retrieve” is a 6th grade level word. Ouch! That may be a bit out of reach for our readers. We could simplify it with “get”, “find” or replace it with “return”, also indicating a sense of helpfulness. Read more »

How I Write a Children’s Book – Part 6

We are now getting to the meat of the story. Back in Part 1, I mentioned that the concept for this story came from my Illustrator, Ron Robrahn. He had sent me a sketch of a penguin and told me he had an idea for a story about a penguin who wishes he could fly. The story concept was sound, but needed some more substance to it. I saw the opportunity to make this more of a self-esteem story.

By the way, here is the sketch he sent to me. If you have the means, and have an illustrator, or someone with drawing ability. Try to get a sketch of your character, it can help in the story development process.

When I said this was a sketch, I wasn’t kidding. If you notice, it was done on the back of something that said, “CREWMEMBER”.

So let’s move forward with our story. When we last left our airborne-impaired penguin, he was watching the other birds flying around Sunshine Park. We established that he had tried some Wile E Coyote style methods to get into the air. To go to those lengths, we need to show how much he truly wants to fly. So how do we do that? Well, we could have him just go to the airport and buy 50 different tickets for 50 different destinations. (I’m sure Delta would love that.  “Penguins, they love to fly, and it shows.)

How about something a little more subtle, but with great graphic potential. Let’s spark the imagination in the reader. Let’s have him daydream about flying. This way, we show the use of imagination, and get to show what it would be like if penguins could fly. We can also show intent. By this I mean, what he would intend to do with this gift. Would he just fly around dropping ice cubes on people? What would he do? There would have to be a selfless act involved, since we are trying to make our protagonist into a hero.

So without further ado, here we go. Read more »

How I Write A Children’s Book – Part 5

We are already on part five. Be sure to check out the other parts if you’d just started reading this because you’ve missed some good stuff.

We’ve already introduced our protagonist, Slappy the penguin, and we’ve partially introduced the scenario. We now need to express his love of bird, and his sadness for not being able to fly. We can also introduce the relationship between him and Sam the ice cream man.

Page 4 : Slappy loved the mornings. This was the time of day when birds would sing, and fly from tree to tree in search of breakfast.
(Arial view of the ice cream cart in the park. On the cart are also pretzels, and donuts. You can see the walking paths, and closer to the readers view, some pigeons and blue birds flying about. Small, and near the cart is Slappy looking up toward the reader.)

Page 5 : Summertime is hot in Sunshine Park, and everyone knows penguins prefer cold weather. Slappy’s friend Sam runs the ice cream cart. He always makes sure he has something special for Slappy.
(Slappy tugging on the pant leg of Sam the ice cream man.)

Page 6 : This was Slappy’s favorite treat. Ice cubes on a stick.
(Closeup of Sam handing Slappy what looks like a shish-ka-bob skewer of ice cubes)

Page 7 : With his treat in hand, Slappy headed off to his favorite spot in the whole park.
(Arial view, similar to page 4, showing Slappy heading down the path, with ice-cube treat in hand)

Page 8: Slappy has a special secret spot in the park where he loves to watch birds. From there he could see the lake, and all the trees around it.
(Montage image of him scurrying under a bush, and up onto a boulder, with a wide view of the water and all the trees around it. Many birds fly around, darting in and out)

Let’s review : We now know that Sam the ice cream man is Slappy’s friend. So much to a degree that he creates a special treat for Slappy each and every day. We also know that Slappy has a special place in the park. This establishes that Slappy has been there for a while. In the illustration descriptions, we’ve included several statement indicating “birds”, lots of birds. Birds are a big part of the story and we need the illustrator to know this.

What we haven’t done yet is establish his love of birds, and his sadness about not being able to fly. Read more »

How I Write a Children’s Book – Part 4

We’ve come to the part where we actually get to start writing our story. Yay! Okay, page one, once upon a time. Page thirty-four, and they lived happily ever after.

I’m sure many writers wish it were that easy. It’s not. Keep in mind, as I write these articles, I am also writing this story. This is not something that was entirely written that I am showing you a behind the scenes view of.

When I write, I usually place a summary of the story, locations, goals and characters that are important at the top of the page.  As I enhance these aspect, I then alter the information.

Summary : A penguin wishes he was a bird. He loves watching birds fly through the air. Nearby a baby pigeon falls from it’s nest into a lake. The mother frantically calls for help, but no ones comes to her aid. Our penguin hears her cries and dives into the water, flapping his flippers like bird wings, and saves the baby pigeon.

Location : Central Park

Goal : Teach about being yourself and embrace who you are.

Characters :

  • Slappy – our protagonist, he is a small penguin who wishes he could fly.
  • Mama pigeon –
  • Baby pigeon –
  • Sam the ice cream man –

Right off the bat, I’m going to make one change. I know we spoke about using Central Park as the park for the story. Here is why I’d like to change it. My using a known location, people will expect more factual information in the story. I can hear the people now, “There are no trees like that in Central Park.”, “Pigeons don’t have nests in the area by the water because of the … blah blah blah.”  Let’s silence those nay sayers before they get the chance to write. Let’s just call it, “Sunshine Park”.

Location : Central Park Sunshine Park.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s start writing. Read more »

How I Write a Children’s Book – Part 3

Welcome to part three of how to write a children’s book. So far we’ve established our story idea, figured out where our story will take place, and our lesson. What’s next you ask? Let’s take some time to develop the story more. In turn, this will also help us develop the characters.

Let’s dive into a little more detail about our protagonist. Some additional detail will help us communicate to our illustrator how we feel the character should look. This is not essential to the story, but I usually see my characters in my mind as I write.

What’s in a name? With Eartha the Sea Turtle, the name was easy because it was based on real sea turtle. Steven the vegan rhymed. (For the record, in Steven the Vegan I named a female character Marion for a possible spin off book, Marion the Vegetarian.)

How are we going to name our lead character? We could go out and get a big book of names and go through it one by one. I think we can come up with one ourselves. Let’s think more about the character itself. Physical characteristics can often help us name a character, like a dog named spot, or a dinosaur named Rex. Visualize our penguin. Is he tall or short? Thin or stout? Does he speak? Does he have spots or a distinguishing mark? the list could go on, but I think you get the idea.

Okay, to keep this project going, I’ll make some decisions. He is small, not short, or stout, just small. He looks like a regular penguin, no weird marks. Of course with just this description alone, we could easily call him Tux. Everyone knows penguins look like they are wearing a tuxedo, so this could fit. But, being me, I’m not settling for what is expected. Let’s build some more details. I’m going to say that the penguin doesn’t speak. This is good and bad. It’s good because there will be no spoken dialog from him. It’s bad because we have to make sure our storyline and illustrations depict his emotions properly. I know what you are thinking, if he can’t speak how does he communicate. Well that will help us name him. To communicate, and get the attention of others, he slaps his flippers on his sides. Due to the way he communicates, we will name him Slappy.

This can also work to our advantage for parents reading the story because children can clap their hands with Slappy.

Next we have our victim, the pigeon. The more I think about the pigeon I think that our victim really needs to be a character that is cuter, and a bit more helpless. So I’m thinking that the victim isn’t the pigeon, but the pigeons baby. A baby pigeon. (I know, so one ever sees a baby pigeon in New York. Just go with me on this will ya?) The story starts to make more sense because the baby could fall out of a nest, and into the water. That creates the situation where our protagonist can become a hero.

Let’s review what we have…
A small penguin named Slappy who lives in an ice cream cart in Central Park. He spends his days watching birds fly, and wishes he could fly himself. A baby pigeon falls out of it’s nest, and into the water. The mama pigeon calls for help, and Slappy dives into the water, flying underwater, and saving the baby pigeon.

Next we will start writing the actual story.

How I Write a Children’s Book – Part 2

So we now have a story concept, “a penguin that wishes he could fly”. Next we have to establish why the penguin thinks this way and more importantly, the end lesson.

Let’s say he loves watching birds. After all, who doesn’t. He loves to see them take flight and zoom through the air. He thinks they are simply amazing. Being a penguin, sorely he can’t fly, but he can swim. We still need to establish the lesson. The lesson will be one of the reasons your book will be purchased. The lesson should be something a child can relate to, even if the parent has to explain it the first time through. For our story, the lesson could be something like learning to be yourself, or perhaps he learns that he can fly, but unlike the birds he loves, water is his sky. Yeah. I like that.

Now we need to establish what makes him realized this. Some event must happen for him to step up and show his true skill, and how it compares, or contrasts his love of flying. What if something happens so that he becomes the only one who can solve a problem primarily because of his swimming ability.

See how the story is developing. One decision leads to another.

So what could happen? Remember, the story is about a penguin that wishes he could fly. The event should involve a bird as they are a point of interest in the story. Read more »

How I Write a Children’s Book – Part 1

I am often asked the question, “How do you write a children’s book?” I honestly never knew how to answer that. I’ve only published one children’s book, and I have one set to be published later this year. In all truthfulness, I never really considered myself a children’s book writer.  But, hey … I’ve written two books. People who have read my second book really think its great, and I know my first book is good just based on sales. So I guess I am qualified to answer that question. But how do you answer a question that has so many steps to it. There is no one answer. It’s not like people ask, what’s your favorite color? (Hunter green by the way).

So although I cannot answer the question simply, I can explain my process. I am going to create a multi-part series on how I write a children’s book. So without further ado, here we go.

Read more »