Writing Children’s Books: How Magical Stories Come to Life

Henry L. Herz
5 min readFeb 15, 2021

How do you win a marathon? You run really fast for 26.2 miles without stopping.

Like winning a marathon, writing is easy to describe, but hard to execute.

Writing a good book is a magical art that blends creating interesting characters, placing them in intriguing settings, and weaving an engaging plot with page-turning action and authentic dialogue. Easy, right? Not so much.

And if writing well wasn’t difficult enough, writing picture books puts additional limits on the author. These children’s books are shorter than adult books, so there’s much less time for story arc or character development. The author is further constrained by the audience’s age; most kids won’t understand adult vocabulary, scenarios or themes.

Think you’re ready to try your hand at this creative project?

Here are a few tips for how to write a children’s book.

What exactly is a children’s picture book?

Picture books are typically, but not always, 32 pages. They are published in larger trim sizes (e.g. 8.5” x 11”) and can contain anywhere from zero to 1,000 words. Fiction picture book word counts under 500 are most common.

Picture books are anomalous in that they can be written at a reading level higher than the age of the intended audience. That’s because picture books, unlike easy readers through YA, are often read to a child by an adult.

That said, truly timeless picture books, like “Where the Wild Things Are” or “A Sick Day for Amos McGee” can be enjoyed by kids of any age.

As the name suggests, these books have pictures on every page. Illustrations help tell the story, describe the setting, set the mood, and convey information about the characters. They provide visual appeal to young readers, and help the author tell a story in fewer words.

Ironically, an artist illustrates a picture book after the manuscript is accepted by a publisher. So it’s common for a picture book author and illustrator to never meet or even speak with each other!

Elements to include when writing a children’s book

Henry L. Herz

Henry Herz authored 11 traditionally published children’s books, 8 children’s and over 20 adult short stories. He’s edited three anthologies. www.henryherz.com