Anastasia Suen

Developmental Editor

Category: critique (Page 2 of 3)

How do I write a children’s book?


Q. How do I write a children’s book?
A. Write down your ideas as they come to mind.

Writing doesn’t have to be hard. Just write down your thoughts! You can do that. When an idea comes to mind, when a snippet of a scene pops into your head, write it down and save it. Day after day, week after week, your book will show up on the page–if you give yourself permission to let the words flow.

Trying to edit while you write just leads to frustration! Writing and editing are different hats to wear, different ways of thinking. Trying to do both at the same time just doesn’t work. (This is yet another “been there, done that” situation.)

For the early drafts of my beginning reader Loose Tooth I tried writing and editing at the same time. I went through draft after draft trying to make the story perfect and NOTHING was working. Then I read The Right to Write by Julia Cameron.

“We are forever editing, leaving out the details that might not be pertinent. We are trained to self-doubt, to self-scrutiny in the place of self-expression.” ~ The Right to Write by Julia Cameron

So I gave her approach a try. What did I have to lose? I sat down and wrote whatever came to mind. ALL of it. I captured EVERY detail on the page, even the ones that didn’t make sense. And then the next day, I did it again. I wrote down every word of the story that came to mind, every single word.

After I had the entire story on the page, after it was all written down, I changed hats and started editing. And what happened? Those little details that seemed random at the time made the story work.

Those impertinent details turned out to be the answers the story needed. I just needed to give myself permission to write them down.

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How long does it take to write a children’s book?


Q. How long does it take to write a children’s book?
A. No one knows! What we do know is that there are three steps to becoming a published author.

  1. Write the book.
  2. Revise the book.
  3. Sell the book.

As a rule of thumb, the longer the book, the longer it takes to write. That being said, some books take a long time to figure out even though the book is very short. Yes, it can take years to write a picture book. (My picture book Road Work Ahead was 25 years in the making.)

I’m not saying it takes years to write words on the page. Quite the opposite! It’s easy to sit down and write words. Making those words into a story is the hard part. Shaping a story into a coherent narrative is what takes time.

Hard writing makes easy reading. Easy writing makes hard reading. - William Zinsser

The legendary writing teacher William Zinsser wasn’t the only one who talked about easy reading and hard writing. Check out the Quote Investigator’s page for Easy Reading Is Hard Writing.

Don’t be fooled by the size!

If you want to write a “little” children’s book because you think it will be easy, you will be in for a BIG surprise.

Yes, you can write a picture book in an afternoon. You can write an entire novel in a month . . .

. . . but that is just the beginning of the process.

Easy writing makes hard reading.

To write a book that communicates your story clearly, you have to revise. So don’t write a children’s book because you think it will be easy.

Write the children’s book story that only you can tell.

The stories that only you can tell are worth the time it takes to write hard . . .

. . . so the book is easy to read.

Copyright © 2016 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.

Should I write a picture book or a chapter book?


Q. Should I write a picture book or a chapter book?
A. There are two factors to consider:

1. the main character’s age
2. the length of your story.

The main character’s age is the first item to check.

  • If the main character is a preschool child, then a picture book is the best choice for your story.
  • If the main character is age 6-8, you can write for either format. There are picture books for ages 6-8 and there are chapter books for ages 6-8.

Q. If I am writing for ages 6-8, how do I choose between a picture book and a chapter book?
A. The length of your story for ages 6-8 will determine whether you are writing a picture book or a chapter book.

The ideal word count for a picture book is less than 500 words. (Some picture books are as long as 800 words.) In a chapter book, 500-800 words only fill ONE chapter and most editors want to see TEN chapters.

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out where your story idea fits best. If you make it shorter, it could fit into a picture book. And if you make it longer it could fit into a chapter book. (Been there, done that!)

The real question is, how much detail do you want to add? Can you tell the story with just a few key details? That fits into a picture book.


A chapter book is often TEN times longer than a picture book. If you have multiple scenes in mind, the chapter book format will give you the room you need to add all of the details and all of the scenes you envision.


Still can’t decide? Read new picture books and new chapter books just like your book. One format isn’t better than the other — it’s just a matter of finding the right place for your story.

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