Anastasia Suen

Developmental Editor

Category: workshops (Page 2 of 3)

Should I write my book from beginning to end?

gokartrush Go-Kart Rush (ghostwritten by Anastasia Suen)

Q. Should I write my book from beginning to end?
A. Yes and no. Writing a story with a beginning, middle, and end is your goal, but most books don’t reveal themselves in order page by page.

If your book comes to mind from beginning to end, by all means, write it down in that order. And if it doesn’t come to you that way, join the crowd!

“No, I don’t use an outline. Of course, I also don’t write in a straight line; I write in lots of little pieces and then glue them together like a jigsaw puzzle.” ~ The Outlandish Companion by Diana Gabaldon

Yes, some of us write in circles. I write my ideas down and then I circle back and add more. I move up and down, up and down the page adding a tidbit here, a snippet there.

I capture my ideas on paper before I use the computer. The computer is linear and paper is not. So I write on scraps of paper first–notes here, notes there, all over the house. (This is my “plotter” side.)

I also use a notebook to write the first draft of a chapter in longhand as the words come. I write down whatever comes to mind, even the words that don’t make sense yet. (This is my “panster” side.)

These plotter and panster actions are the prewriting step that you see on those Five Stages of Writing charts at schools.

The Five Stages of Writing
  1. Prewriting
  2. Drafting
  3. Revising
  4. Editing
  5. Publishing

The first four stages of writing are thinking and changing stages.

You don’t have to move from beginning to end through the five stages of writing either. For example, revising a chapter of your novel may lead to drafting a completely new scene and to do that, you may need to prewrite with little scraps of paper (plotter) or a blank page that you just fill with words as they come to mind (pantser).

Don’t be afraid of the thinking and changing stages of writing. Let your imagination run wild and have fun–playing with words!

Copyright © 2016 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.

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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