Children’s book ideas don’t always come easy
I can’t speak for other authors about how they approach writing a children’s book, but this is my personal experience.
I have come up with children’s books based on ideas that just popped into my head (and I assure you this happens on the reg). Another approach I use is biographical, like Serenading Jesus. This book was based on my mother’s example in my life. I love this story to distraction because I am who I am because of this amazing woman’s influence in my life. This book was also my attempt to publish using a vanity press and their art department. That method didn’t work for me. I have plans to have it re-illustrated and self published. I would love for you to have this book as I truly envision it. Hopefully, that version will be coming soon.
Also, I have written several children’s books that came from the desire to fill a need. Both Bixby Bunny Hears a Sound and You’re Own Little Silly McGilly were written in response to personal challenges my children were facing. When life becomes challenging I tackle it head on and then… I write.
But some of my favorite ideas came through personal struggle.
When life seems a bit sour look for how to make it sweet
You most likely know the phrase,
“When life hands you lemons make lemonade.”
Even events that bring difficulty or heartbreak can work together to bring about something beautiful. We had a situation like this. It put us on a path of hard work, frustration and finally breakthrough. And it wasn’t the breakthrough that brought about the inspiration. It was the process, the journey toward the breakthrough that inspired me.
I’ve written about my daughter Meg’s, speech impediment before but what I didn’t tell you was that something very cool happened because of it. Meg’s teacher gave me words and sounds to practice with Meg at home and me being a creative sort of person turned it into a little game that I would play with her.
Our conversation went something like this:
Me: Bixby Bunny hears a sound with his floppy ears. Bzz Bzz is the sound Bixby Bunny hears. Bixby Bunny hears a …
Me: Bixby Bunny hears a Sound with his floppy ears. Bow wow is the sound Bixby Bunny hears. Bixby Bunny hears a …
I would continue with other farm animals like Moo Moo for ‘cow’ or roar roar for ‘lion’. Each having a purpose of practicing what she was learning in speech therapy. It was a huge success. Sometimes the other kids would chime in their answers to the rhyme. I’m a huge believer in making practice that could come off as rote as enjoyable as possible. In fact I love the challenge of creating games, stories, songs and the like that aide in learning.
Then one day as we were going through our Bixby Bunny routine I realized I just might have a really cute children’s book.
All it really needed was a way to button the story up. Sounds easy enough, right? As we all know, a diamond or gem doesn’t sparkle until it’s been cut and polished and a story is no different. Even something like a simple children’s book needs refinement or it won’t keep the reader engaged. I take what I do very seriously. I’m constantly refining so that I have a process that works. My cutting and polishing for Bixby Bunny Hears A Sound went something like this
Here was my story development process:
I chose a setting
Since there were so many different animals and sounds I felt I needed to narrow my animal pool for this children’s book. I considered zoo animals or forest animals (but what sound does a squirrel make anyway?). After a little thought, and it didn’t take long thankfully, I landed on farm animals. It was a win/win. The homeschool teacher in me loved the idea of a book that had a clear focus. And it could be used in a preschool or kindergarten unit on farm life.
I chose my characters
Once I had my location the characters were easy. farm animals are limited. Cows, sheep, ducks, hens, etc. But I wanted these farm animals to have a purpose for being around each other that superseded simply being on the same farm. They needed connection. Here was the challenge. The text wasn’t going to include dialogue between the animals. Dialogue is a common way to establish relationship, but in this case relationship would have to be implied through the visual story and the plot. What did I want the connection to be and how would I convey that? Farm animals are work animals, some of the animals around a farm are pets. I considered my audience, which would most likely be young children, and decided I wanted these animals to be friends.
I chose a plot
Since my writing style is narrative I new I had to write a story versus an informational book. A plot needs somewhere to go and somewhere to end. I decided the ending would involve a birthday party for Bixby Bunny. But it was my son, Ethan, who helped me land on the idea of a surprise birthday party. This was brilliant. He created this idea by adding presents hidden on the pages that we are introduced to each animal. The brilliance came in yet another way to engage the child. Now, they weren’t only guessing animal sounds they were also looking for presents.
I chose a style –
Ethan, who was the one who came up with the surprise party idea was also the book illustrator. He was an amazing artist (he still is – check out some of his professional work HERE). It’s hard to believe he was only 15 at the time. I told him I wanted a look that was clean, simple, even minimalistic. I wanted a classic feel. Because the targeted readers were so young I didn’t want busy or cluttered artwork. Nothing distracting yet still endearing and sweet. This can be more challenging than you might think. Ethan perfectly interpreted the characters and story the way I was picturing it.
When we were finished we had the story we were looking for
Are you thinking of writing a children’s book? Do you already write them? What is your inspiration? What process do you use? Is it different for different titles? Mine is. The bottom line is be intentional. Think about your parts of the story. Know your setting, characters, plot, and most importantly your audience. The points I gave above are very simplistic. I could write an entire post just about understanding how the setting in this little book serves the story or why I as the writer had to know Bixby Bunny’s motivation for being on his journey to make the story work.
Let me know if you’d like me to write some posts that go into more detail on the various parts of a story. I probably will write them whether you ask or not but I’d still like to know.
And be sure to get your own copy of Bixby Bunny Hears a Sound by clicking the image of the book.
Bixby Bunny Hears a Sound
Thanks for following the journey.
Until next time,
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