How to Write a Children's Picture Book | Katy Segrove | Skillshare

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How to Write a Children's Picture Book

teacher avatar Katy Segrove, Children's writer in London

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Tools needed for the course


    • 3.

      What is a Children's Picture Book?


    • 4.

      Create your Main Character


    • 5.

      Finding Ideas


    • 6.



    • 7.



    • 8.

      Sum up your idea in 2 sentences


    • 9.



    • 10.

      Start Writing!


    • 11.

      Blank Page Syndrome


    • 12.

      Tips to Keep Going


    • 13.

      Getting Feedback


    • 14.

      How to Edit your Story


    • 15.

      If you want to Get Published...


    • 16.



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About This Class

Join children’s writer and screenwriter, Katy Segrove, in her introductory class about learning to write a children’s picture book. During the course you’ll discover how to write for pre-school children, and you’ll have a go at writing your very own 500-700 word picture book story, completely from scratch.

We’ll start by brainstorming ideas, developing engaging characters and selecting a theme that will resonate with the age-group.

Then we’ll get to work on the main class project – writing your own picture book story, using simple but effective language.

You don’t need to have written before, you just have to want to give it a try!

Meet Your Teacher

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Katy Segrove

Children's writer in London


Hello, I'm Katy.

I'm a London based author, screenwriter and writing coach. As a writer, I specialise in writing for children - animation and children's picture books. I love creating quirky characters and fanciful worlds. My first book 'Hopscotch and the Christmas Tree' came out in 2017, and was quickly turned into an animated TV special, airing on TV in December 2018. We're now developing a whole animated TV series, based on the same characters, which aims to teach little ones lessons from the Science of Happiness. My latest picture book - another story in the same series, 'Malcolm and the Trampoline', came out in August 2019.

I'm looking forward to sharing my knowledge about writing, pitching, good habits and developing a writing routine on Skillshare. If you need ... See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Hi, I'm Katie, See Growth author and screenwriter with a passion providing for Children. Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a writer, and I got started by taking classes, meeting other aspiring writers, getting feedback and just keeping on writing. Last year I had my first picture book published, Hopscotching The Christmas Tree, and I fell in love with the process of writing picture books. This year my book has turned into an animation for TV, which has been such a journey. Whatever I'm writing, I adore the process of developing stories, creating something out of nothing and chiseling it into shape with just my pen on my laptop . And I can honestly say that writing boosts my happiness every day. I can't wait to share everything I've learned with you. Along the way. The class project will be to write your own Children's picture book, which I think is perfectly achievable within a short time frame. Given the small number of words, picture books tend to be 500 to 700 words long, which is approximately 1/2 to 2 pages of typed text to help you on your way. We look at how to create characters. I'll share some tips on brainstorming ideas. I'll get to think about what you're writing on a thematic level, and I'll also give you some strategies for keeping going. Even when the going gets tough as well as a class project, there'll be a few simple assignments to help you with the writing process. It's a great idea to upload these to the project area so that your clip fellow classmates come see what we're working on and give you feedback and encouragement to. And I can't wait to read your work as well. So who is this course for? Basically, it's for anyone who wants to do some creative writing on in particular, right for Children. Maybe you've got some ideas or you've written some stories before. Or perhaps you've never written a word and don't know where to start. Either way, no experience is required. The most important thing is a willingness to learn and have a go right. Let's get started in the next lesson, will look at the simple tools you're going to need to complete the course 2. Tools needed for the course: first, I'm going to go over the tools you'll need to take this course. It's simple, really. Just pens, paper, laptop. If you wish some Children's picture books, we'll talk about this more later. And, of course, your imagination. I think you don't have one. Don't worry, I'll help you find it. 3. What is a Children's Picture Book?: So what is a picture book For the purposes? Of course it is a book told with words and pictures for pre school Children were going to be looking at 3 to 5 years of age. H three is roughly when Children start to follow the story. Andi. Usually it is 500 to 700 words long, and sometimes Children read these books to themselves, maybe even learning to read, but frequently there, read aloud by an adult, a parent or teacher. So the words themselves are really importantly. They have to be chosen really carefully. They have to sound beautiful. Read aloud on this course, we're just thinking about the words were not worrying about pictures, because usually the publisher will find the illustrator on. So when you're writing, you need to think visually so that the illustrator has a guide to write to. But you don't want to describe everything. You need to leave some room for the for the illustrator to use their own imagination. So the words complement the pictures, and the pictures complement the words. Here are a few examples of some of the books I like just to give you an idea off the ratio of words to pictures. So he is lost and found by all of the Jeffers. Here we have one of the Blue Kangaroo books. Andi, this is the tiger who came to tea. So as you can see, they really very in terms of how how many words there are on a page. I'm going to get you to do a little bit of research. I want you to go away and read some picture books, especially if you're not very familiar with picture books. I want you to read a few. Harvard doesn't let's say, but both good and bad. So if you go to a library on, have a look in the Children's section on, just take a few at random, you will probably get something. I'm not too great, but I also want you to read some really good ones. So if you if you Google best picture books of all time, you come up with some lists off of some wonderful picture books, so go away and read them and compare them on. As you'll see. The best ones can move you and amusing, even as an adult. But the worst ones, even though they are so few words, you will struggle to reach the end. So imagine yourself. If you're not a parent or teacher, imagine having to read these books over and over again. You really want them to be inspiring in some way, and you're my favorite. So, as I mentioned before, lost and found, it's a little boy who finds a penguin on his doorstep. Um, and he he tries to find him. He tries to help him to find his way home. But really, it's the story of friendship. Andi, this simple story just never fails to move me every time I read it, Um, then another one is Gorilla by Anthony Brown. It's about a little girl who loves guerrillas, but what it's really about is a girl who wants to get some attention from her dad. Um, so it's got quite a dark side, which I find quite surprising for such an Children, but But they take it on board. They accept it on ditz, yet got real depth to it. And I also love I love you, Blue Kangaroo, um, about a little girl and her adored a cuddly blue kangaroo on bond. Um, and how much she loves it again. It's such a sweet, moving story, but even as an adult you can read it over and over again and on, and it will just sort of it will move you, and it will lift your heart as a piece of homework. Your assignment is to to share your two or three favorite picture books with the rest of the class on the project gallery, so I look forward to seeing what you come up with. 4. Create your Main Character: in this lesson, we're going to start creating characters in picture books. Character types can be Children. They might be animals could be aliens. It could be in animate objects such as toys, vehicles, cars, buses, furniture. So that's a good place to start. Next, you should think about their main character trait. Choose one or two things. These characters are not complex. So, for example, in the tiger who came to tea, the tiger is hungry. In gorilla, the little girl is lonely and wants to spend time with her dad. She also loves guerrillas. In my book, Hopscotching the Christmas Tree Hopscotch is happy. She's a happy horse. You might also want to think. Do they have a problem? So, for example, in Lost and Found, the Penguin is lost, and the little boy wants to help him find his way home in Gorilla. The little girl wants to spend time with her dad, but he's too busy. So your assignment for this lesson is to start by creating your own main character. Um, so right one or two lines about your character. What what's what is their character type? What is their main character trait or to Andi, Do they have a problem? Andi, Share it with the rest of the class in the project gallery. Good luck. 5. Finding Ideas: in this lesson, we're going to look at to finding ideas. New writers often worry about how they'll come up with an idea, but once you get started, you'll soon see you won't be able to stop. It is often helpful to keep a notebook handy to jot down any ideas that spring to mind. They don't have to be fully formed. Just anything that crops up. I find that a good place to start is with yourself what interests and amuses you. What do you find yourself reading in the paper in the map or a magazine? What do you drawn to? So, for example, when I was writing my picture book, I was obsessed with the science of happiness, and so that became the theme of my story. Something else is to eavesdropped conversations. You might want to listen to people in cafes watch kids that play or think back to conversations you've had with friends or family things that just tickled your fancy or or stayed in your mind, something that might sort of inspire story. Look around, you walk down the street. What do you see? Is there anything unusual that that that, uh, sparks your imagination. You could also try reinventing a fairy tale Cinderella. The three Little pigs Andi think also about big moments in kids lives there, often a good place to start for Children's picture books. So losing a tooth starting school, being scared of the dark, those of themes that come up again and again in Children's picture books. Think back to your own life. What was really important to you? Is it? Are there any memories that really stuck in your mind? Um, we often can't remember very much from our early years, but the things we can remember often significant. So that might be a good starting point for your picture book. So your assignment, this lesson is to come up with one or two short ideas, one or two sentences each on share them with your classmates on the project gallery. I can't wait to see what you come up with. 6. Brainstorming: next, we're going to look at the benefits of brainstorming. I love to do brainstorming mind maps, spider diagrams, whatever you want to call them. I think they're a really important part off my creative process. Brainstorming can help you get started. It can help you start again. If you get stuck, it can help you. If you're editing, brainstorming can be really broad or it could be really focused. You can do simple black and wiped mind maps, or you can do really colorful ones full of pictures. However, you want to do them whatever works for you. So at the beginning of your story writing process, you might want to use brainstorming to get the broad brush strokes of your story or your character. So, for example, you start with what you know. Let's say you know your character tough type. You've decided he's going to be a cat, and you know its main character trait. It likes to complain, Um, and you know, it has a problem. It's got the chicken pox. So you put the this information in the middle of your sheet, and then you just start brainstorming ideas. Whatever springs to mind what might happen. Ask yourself questions. What might happen? Who might to this character? Meat? How mighty end. You can do brainstorming to come up with different versions of your story to help you find the best one. It's always best toe not just to settle on the first thing that springs to mind, cause that that might well be a cliche. If you've got more than one idea. If you if you really sort of chisel down into it to you're more likely to come up with something more fun and original. So let's say you've decided you want to write a funny but emotional story. Put that on the sheet. What's your theme? You want to write about learning to say sorry and who is your central character? Put that in the middle of your sheet and then use it as a springboard to try and figure out where to go next. Perhaps you're stuck halfway through your story, and you just don't know where to go next. So use brainstorming to think of different options. For example, Benji, the age alien, is lost in the forest and doesn't know how to get out what might happen next. Just asking yourself that question? Andi, Using the mind map method, it could just help you bounce ideas around. Don't worry, Don't judge them. Don't worry. If they sound stupid, anything you go in this piece of paper because only you were going to see it. So perhaps you have a story idea, but you just don't know what sort of character should you should use. You could use brainstorming to help you come up with ideas, so brainstorming can be focused. It can be broad, and it can help you come up with multiple ideas rather than just plumping for the first thing that pops into your head. So I'm going to give you a mini assignment. If you have a go at brainstorming your ideas, see if you can fill it out into a little bit more detail and then share your your mind maps on the project gallery with the rest of the group. Have fun 7. Theme: So when we talk about theme, what do we mean? Well, the story is what your book is about, but the theme is what it's really about. On an emotional level, for example, the picture book Lost and Found is about a boy helping a penguin find his way home. But it's really about friendship. That's the theme. My story hopscotching The Christmas Tree is about a group of friends looking for the perfect Christmas tree. But really, it's about learning to stay positive. Your theme might be comedic, something quite light hearted. It doesn't have to have a huge amount of depth. If it is comedic, you need to make sure that your ending has a really good punch line. Your theme might be teaching a lesson. For example, in when I First Met You Blue Kangaroo. It's the story off a little girl remembering when she first got her beloved Blue Kangaroo. But it's really about her coming to terms with getting a new baby brother and wanting to help her mom look after him. We'll see. Might be moving, for example, in our babies. Three little our babies are left alone at night on are worried that their mom is never coming back on. They are wondering where she's gone. Um, all your theme might be sad, as in Gorilla, the little girl really wants attention of her dad, but he's too busy on never has any time for her. So think about what sort of theme you want your story tohave. You might want to think about whether it's personal. It doesn't have to be, but it might make it more compelling for you to write it. For example, you might think of a problem that your own Children have that you want to solve. In a Children's book, for example, they might have a fear of monsters under the bed, or they might hate going to bed on. Do you want to solve this problem through a story? Or you might want you might remember a problem you had as a child, Andi, that you want to solve in a storybook, and that could tie into your theme 8. Sum up your idea in 2 sentences: by now, you should have your character, your story and your theme. So it's time to summer was your idea in a couple of sentences so that it's totally clear in your mind before you start writing. This can be quite a challenging task, so you might want to start your sentence by thinking this is about a character who or this is about Sally who to help you. I'm going to give you a few examples from existing Children's books You can find your own by. If you look at the back cover or the inside cover of a picture book, you look. You'll usually find a wanted to sentence synopsis on that can help you when you're trying to structure your own mini Synopsys. So, for example, when I first met you Blue Kangaroo here, the couple of sentences that summarize the story on the back cover of the book. When Lily gets a baby brother, she soon discovers that it's not easy learning new things and looking after someone so small. But then Grandma brings her a very special surprise. Ah, little soft toy, who also needs to be careful. And from the moment that Lily and blue kangaroo meat. It is love as a very sweet little synopsis that really summarizes what it's all about in guerrilla. This is what they say it is about. Hannah loves guerrillas, but she's never seen a real one. Her father's too busy to take her to the zoo or to do anything else come to that for her birthday. Anna asks her father for a gorilla, but is disappointed when only gets a toy one. Then something amazing happens. So you see, this one leaves us on a little bit of a cliffhanger. But it sort of gives us a hint that something magical is going to happen, lost and found. This is the little synopsis. Once there was a boy on one day he found a penguin at his door. He didn't know where it came from or who it belonged to. The penguin look sad, and the boy thought it must be lost, so he decided to help it find its way home. Even if that meant ruin away to the South Pole again. Just a slightly fantastical story. Your mini synopsis is supposed to just summarize your idea, but not tell the whole story. But it's meant to keep it really clear in your mind to help you with the writing process so that you can keep referring back to it and keep thinking, Yes, this is what I'm writing about. So I would suggest you write it on a small card and keep it above your desk whenever you're writing and for homework. I'd like you to share this Synopsys with the rest of the group in the project calorie Happy writing and let me know if you have any questions. 9. Language: Before we start writing our books, I wanted to think first about language. So here are a few things to consider. Keep it simple. Make sure your sentences a short, just a few words long on Easy to follow. Andi, make sure that you your words are simple. Don't use a lot of complicated vocabulary just keeping your mind your age group there 3 to 5 years of age so they don't have great comprehension. It's good to stretch them a little bit with the occasional word that they might not know. But you don't want tohave to money. Complicated words because they won't be have to follow and they'll switch off. I keep thinking about the fact that your book is going to be read aloud, so make sure that the words sound nice on the ear, so you'll have to read it aloud yourself just to see how it sounds. Does it? Does it have a nice ring to it on? Although you have to think visually, don't be overly descriptive. Don't describe every single detail because you want to leave room for your illustrator to use their imagination. I'm going to read a few pages of the opening of my book just to give you an idea about how just to show you how I keep my sentences short. How I set the scene on Introduce my characters. I hope you enjoy it. Hopscotch on the Christmas tree Everyone felt excited in Rainbow News. It was needy Christmas, so happy little hopscotch run up to the attic and brought down four boxes of decorations or on her own Carlo treat with you with delight when he saw them and charged around, knocking things over in his excitement. Ingrid Jones anxiously while Jules cover disease and learned about the noise. Merkel put down his book to see what the fuss was about. Hopscotch pulled something from the long tutti box. It's a lovely tree, quite Barbara Output, a rather small old silvery tree with branches spent in strange directions. What's caution often say, as a money tree. It's rubbish, said Carlo in a huff. We just need to straighten it out, said Barbara. She was practical like that. She bent the branches, fluffed up the spikes and pushed tree into its stand. That's better 10. Start Writing!: it's now time to start writing your main class project. So just to remind you we're going to be writing of Children's picture book, it's ages 3 to 5 years old. You're aiming for 500 to 700 words long. I think it's going to be read aloud by a parent or carer or teacher, and it will eventually be compliment, complemented with pictures set aside some time, maybe a morning when we can draw or in the evening. If that suits you better. Sometime when you won't be interrupted, put your phone in another room, turn it on silent. And if you're likely to be distracted by the Internet, turn your laptop to flight mode or disabled the Internets another way and get together your tools. Your notebook pens, laptop. Have any notes that you've, um, got from the from the other exercises. Make sure you've got your card with your 1 to 2 sentence summary. Have some picture books nearby for inspiration. Get yourself a drink on a snack to keep you going and then start. And don't forget to upload your stories to the Project gallery. Can't wait to see what you come up with 11. Blank Page Syndrome: So what if you set aside some time you sat down already to start and then found yourself feeling completely overwhelmed and didn't know where to start? That means you're suffering from the blank page syndrome, but fear not. It happens to the best of us. Andi, there's plenty we can do to get started. So what you need to do is get yourself a timer. Give yourself 10 minutes to write just 10 minutes. That's all you need to do and set yourself warned. Small task. Perhaps you just want to write your first sentence of your first paragraph, or maybe just come up with your title. Whatever is, that's all you're going to do. Set the timer and go. This will help you counter at that feeling off. Being overwhelmed. You don't have to do it all at once. You can do in small chunks. Just start with something small and manageable. I hope that helps 12. Tips to Keep Going: Now we're going to look at a few other tips to help you keep going if and when you feel stuck along the way. So what if you got started always going well and suddenly you got stuck and gave up. First, try to analyze what made you stop. Perhaps you let yourself get distracted with chores with the Internet with your favorite TV show, it can help to just figure out what it is that made you stop. Andi. Maybe that will help you start again. Perhaps you lost your way. If so, go back and do some brainstorming. Andi, try and figure out what comes next in the story. Brainstorming mind maps. That's a great way of doing it. Perhaps you're just feeling overwhelmed by the task at hand. If so, set yourself just one small task at a time. Andi used the trick with the timer work for 10 minutes just on that one. Task on that might help get you going again. What have you got to a really difficult bit in the story and you just don't know how to write it. It's more complicated than you've than you imagined. Maybe take some time out don't write it right now. Write yourself a note. A few bullet points. Put that in the story and come back to it later. Carry on with a bit that you do know how to write. What if you keep finding excuses to sit down and write? There was something better to do. Maybe you need to find yourself a writing buddy or writing group. Meet up in a cafe and write together that will give you some accountability. Or perhaps you need to find somebody online if you can't find anyone in your area. Also use this class to help you feel accountable to help you set deadlines and help you feel motivated. So those are just a few tips to help you try and keep going. Whenever you get stuck, I hope you find them helpful. 13. Getting Feedback: now we're going to look at feedback by now. You've hopefully finished your story with the help of the exercises and the tips to help you keep going. Um, and it's time to get some feedback. Remember, this is just a first draft. It doesn't have to be perfect. So first of all, if you haven't already upload your story to the Project Gallery and get feedback from your fellow students, ask friends and family to read it and share their thoughts with you. If you know any other writers or aspiring writers, ask for their feedback. If there are any Children in your life, read it aloud to them and see how they respond. Do they stay engaged? If not, make a note about where they lose interest when giving feedback. Remember the feedback sandwich. Praise, constructive criticism, Praise. It's much easier to take feedback on board if there are plenty of positives when receiving feedback, Try not to be defensive. Just listen. Don't speak. Take it all in. You don't have to do everything that everyone suggests, but more than one person mentions an issue. Then they probably have a point. If you have trouble listening to feedback because it can be overwhelming at first. Ask them to write it down and email it to you. Then leave it a day or two on review it, then go back to work on Remember, perfection is the enemy off the good? So we're not looking for perfect just yet. We're just looking for a first draft to improve. 14. How to Edit your Story: so you gathered some feedback. You've taken a day or two to absorb it. Now it's time to edit your story First. Remember that picture books are meant to be read aloud, so start the process by reading it aloud to yourself and see how it sounds. Perhaps you could record it on your phone and play it back to yourself. How does it sound? Is it easy to read, or do you trip over any of your words? It should have a singsong rhythm to it should be pleasing to listen to next. Printed out and edited with a pen, I personally find this much easier than trying to edit straight onto the computer. It looks and feels differently on paper. Go through it meticulously and cut out any complicated words and sentences. And remember, you must be ruthless with your word count. We're looking for 500 to 700 words. So short and concise is much better than long and lawfully. You might have to cut out some of your favorite bits, but it will be better in the long run. Go through it to make sure you haven't repeated yourself and keep your age group in mind. Is it appropriate for 3 to 5 years of age? Also, don't forget the parents as they're the ones who'll be reading your story. Will they find it fun to read aloud? Is there something for them to? So your assignment now is to edit your first draft. Andi uploaded to the project Gallery on Ask for feedback. Have fun. 15. If you want to Get Published...: What if you have hopes of getting published? Here are a few top tips. First you need to write, write, write, practice, practice, practice right. Lots of different stories. Keep getting feedback, keep rewriting, keep making them better. And you must do this before you even consider approaching publishers. Because practice makes perfect. Once you've written quite a few stories, choose your three best ones on only Send them when you're sure they're good enough as they're so short. A publisher but want to see at least three, maybe some additional ideas just to know that you're not a one trick pony. Next, do your research and find a few publishers who published books that you admire in a similar style to yours. I would suggest starting the smaller ones rather than the really big names on. Go to their website, check their submission guidelines on DCI check. Who is the appropriate person to approach. Then write a really nice, concise covering letter and make sure you mentioned any success you've had so far. Be sure to follow their submission guidelines absolutely, because otherwise they will reject you on a technicality 16. Conclusion: so that's the end of the course. I do hope you've enjoyed it. Don't forget to upload your story to the Project Gallery and ask for feedback, as the best way to improve your writing is by writing, getting feedback and rewriting. Also, don't forget to view and comment on your fellow classmates. Stories and ideas. Think about their characters that themes on. Also, don't forget the feedback sandwich. Praise, constructive criticism. Praise when sharing feedback. Thanks so much for taking this class. I can't wait to see what you've come up with. Andi do keep in touch. Let me know if you have any questions.