Step 2: Write The Story
It’s logical enough; if you want to self publish kids books then you better have a story.
For me I get inspiration from life in general. In the process of talking or doing everyday activities suddenly a unique idea dawns on me and from then on I just mull it over letting it take shape until I can put pen to paper and flesh it out. Day-dreaming I guess you could call this. It can be hard to sit and stare at a blank piece of paper or computer screen and genius ideas rise to the surface. It’s usually when I am doing routine work like painting walls that my mind is free to dwell and focus on developing an idea. So ironically, my advice in terms of ideas for writing, is to actually go do something else completely. Something that lets your mind wander without distraction; cleaning, painting, washing the car, whatever works for you. Maybe even just lying in bed before you go to sleep. That can be a great time for contemplation. Let the ideas percolate and then bullet point them and if you are doing a picture book a quick 30 second sketch doesn’t hurt either.
NOVELS & TEXT ONLY:
Once you have your skeleton, you can start applying the fat, carefully crafting and choosing words to carry your story from one page to the next. It’s really hard to get from A to F if you haven’t got a basic idea for B, C, D and E. So create a bullet point list from start to finish. In the case of a novel this would be a sentence or two for each phase of your story. You can add chapters later, since you have no idea how many pages each phase of the story may take up. When I do this I usually end up typing really fast, trying to get the ideas on paper as fast as possible before I forget them. This usually results in a lot of spelling and grammatical errors, but it doesn’t matter. This is just for my eyes only to get my ideas recorded before I forget them. It may seem like gibberish to anyone else if they read it. It’s enough of a skeleton for me to follow when I actually write the full chapter.
Here’s an example from Elliza & Melkio Book 2 ideas…
Once I have my skeleton I now can take a slower approach and carefully craft my words to form my story.
Ok so that is what I call a first draft. Be prepared, you will likely have to go through several drafts and editing to really polish the text, eliminate grammatical and spelling errors, and so forth. It’s actually really good to rewrite the same text over and and over, because you will see new ways to express the same thoughts you hadn’t the first time around. Often restructuring a sentence, adding a new verb, noun or detail can greatly enhance the imagination of your reader. Try to consider all five senses and when appropriate incorporate them into your story.
Tip: Scan your text for repeat words, use a thesaurus if you have to and try to never use the same word twice.
I highly recommend getting outside input to finalize your text. My original Elliza & Melkio book was just called “Elliza: Heart of War” and there was no fantasy element to it. I deliberately wrote it completely real world. It was only later I switched gears and added the fantasy elements and made it more inclusive with Melkio and his back story. It was a work in progress for a couple of years. I also had three different people read and edit. One was a paid professional. Likewise with the cover; the first two I did myself while deployed. After paying for professional editing I also commissioned my friend Spec to do an amazing cover for the book. Notice, even Melkio’s name changed spelling after receiving input.
I’ll get into font, layout and style in Step 3.
With picture books you may be able to go straight into drawing out a storyboard with a page by page plan. The typical children’s book is 28-32 pages, since the large print manufacturers templates were typically designed to accommodate this number of pages in a single print before cutting up the pages. In this day and age of digital printing, I don’t believe this is as much of a necessity.
Here’s a basic storyboard layout…
Tip: Keep in mind interior pages of a book will always start on the right side and end on the left (unless you add blank pages).
A children’s book text may only be a page or two in total when written out. Layout becomes much more crucial, since they are generally designed to be visually engaging. When dividing up your text, you have to think carefully about where it will sit in relation to your images. the text itself is as much visual component of your book as the images are. Keep this in mind as you design your layout.