How to Write a Children’s Book (Book Review)
How to Write a Children’s Book
By Barbara Seuling
This how to guide by Barbara Seuling, first published in 1984 and revised in 1991 and 2004, contains a lot of useful information on the business of writing children’s books. It is geared towards those who seek to become professional writers of children’s literature, primarily employed by writing for this particular audience.
While some of the information is dated, such as writing techniques using type writers (this comes from an earlier edition) and computers, much of it is still relevant and contains practical advice to the novice writer about practical writing techniques and the publishing industry. It breaks down the different types of genres within children’s literature and provides enough overview details of each.
Chapter twelve, about writing novels, is a good example of what one can expect from this book. There is a brief paragraph at the beginning of the chapter describing children’s novels, followed by sections about the elements of novels (plot, motivation, subject matter, characters, background, beginnings and endings, themes, action (telling versus showing), view points of characters, description (how descriptions in children’s books differ from those of adult literature), watching dialog and language, suspense, and chapter titles, appropriate lengths and word counts (e.g. 8-12 year olds run no more than 100 pages, while readers 12 and up average around 150 pages), a check list for writing novels (e.g. One of the fourteen points reads: Show, don’t tell. Let the reader know what happens by showing him, not telling him about it.). At the end of each chapter are helpful exercises to help push writers towards becoming a professional writer (e.g. Write a character profile for the protagonist in a novel you want to write. Keep adding new information as you think of it.).
It also sports a decent index for quick reference, and an appendix full of useful and still relevant information about the publishing industry: Book lists (great for researching the current publishing trends), entities that review children’s books, history and criticism of children’s literature, reference books (dictionaries, manuals, and guides), where to find market information, other books on writing as a craft, organizations writers for children should know about, organizations of special interest for book illustrators, editorial services, and recommended children’s books (arranged by age group).
It is enlightening for this reviewer to learn how picture books are constructed. It is also interesting to hear about the publishing industry from the author’s editorial experience. For example, in the chapter written specifically to the author/illustrator, she mentions that most authors are discouraged from including art work with their submissions to publishers, unless they are a professional illustrator.
Overall, this book is highly suggested for beginning as well as seasoned authors because it contains a wealth of practical information. For a comparable and more contemporary book on writing children’s literature, try Tracey Dils’ You Can Write Children’s Books.