Writing children’s books

I am currently visiting my grandchildren who live interstate. It’s a joy I have only a few times every year, but so interesting to see their development and to play with them a whole range of games. Their ages are 4 and 1, so they are still developing in many ways, especially in their imaginations.

One of the special delights is cuddling up for story time. Both parents are book lovers, so their home has many books. Family and friends have also made sure the two little ones have plenty of books in their lives. And to add to the wonderful books in the home, a new branch library has just recently opened up in an old church building five minutes’ walk up the road.

In reading books daily to the grandchildren – and sometimes several times a day – once again has impressed upon me the importance of reading in the life of a child. So much language development occurs in this pre-school period. So many books are rich in wonderful language. But more than that, there is so much cultural heritage which can be absorbed by the young, developing mind. There are also the many environmental concepts which can also be introduced through non fiction. Last night my grandson and I spent nearly an hour pouring over a book about farming; he lives in Australia”s largest city so this is an excellent way of talking about my heritage; I grew up on a farm.

The case for reading to and with children is so important and soundly supported by the research. What is less emphasised, I feel, is the importance of reading children’s books if one desires to be writing children’s books. Just like in the importance of books in the life of a developing child, so is the reading of children’s books vital in the development of the aspiring children’s authors. You cannot read too many, and there are so many wonderful children’s books out there now you will certainly be entertained for many years to come.

Good reading.

Good writing.

Progress on my novel

Over the last ten days I have been steadily working on two aspects of my novel for children. I have been going through the text meticulously editing and rewriting. I have now finished the second and third drafts of the text. I’ve almost finished the fourth draft as well.


In the second draft of the work I used the notes of fellow students for the first seven chapters, plus the notes of a friend who offered to proofread the whole novel for me. She proved to be quite valuable as a reader and she managed to pick up many typos, punctuation errors and a few spelling errors. She found errors on most pages and so it was worth my while getting her to read the manuscript. Her strength is in copyediting, rather than in structural elements, setting, plot or characterisation. She did have a few comments to make about the motivation and attitude of the protagonist which made me think.

Supervising lecturer

On the third draft I used the notes and comments of my supervising lecturer. Rosanne, with all of her experience as a published writer, is able to tell immediately if there are any weaknesses in the story, where things could be improved, elements of the plot that need to be eliminated as well as being good at copyediting. As my supervising lecturer this is a big part of her role. She is also very good at encouragement and also in gently pointing out areas for improvement. If only every writer had such a mentor. Actually-she is far more than a mentor to me; she has become a friend.


During the third draft I also did considerable rewriting, adding and subtracting many words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs and even a half page here and there. In fact, during this process the manuscript went from 39,175 words to 39,932 words, an almost 2% increase. And that was despite deleting many words along the way.


On my fourth draft I am on my own, looking at the suggestions of no-one. I am going through the text with a very critical eye. I am eliminating all unnecessary words and passages. I am looking for grammatical errors (a few), problems with point of view (there were many) and inconsistencies with the tenses of my verbs. This latter area will need much attention in my fifth draft, I’ve decided.

Road trip

Over the last five days progress has slowed down considerably due to being away from home. We travelled to Geelong for our daughter’s graduation at Deakin University. She has achieved her Master of Education (TESOL), her third degree. Because we were staying with friends it was part holiday as well. I was able to attend to some editing but relaxing with our friends was higher on the agenda.

Tomorrow I will need to get back into full swing again.

Related articles:

  • Writing a novel – a series of articles outlining the processes I went through while writing a novel for children.

More about rewriting and editing a novel

Writing a novel – a writer’s journal: part 20

Rewriting and editing: is there a difference?

There is a fine line between rewriting and editing. One of my lecturers is quite adamant that there is a huge difference. I see them as distinct but closely related. What you call them is not important. It’s the process that is crucial.

By rewriting I mean going back over the whole text and literally rewriting whole passages – perhaps even whole chapters. In my case, there should be a minimal amount of this as I strive for my first draft to be very good. Blogging – as well as many aspects of the course work for my MA – has taught me to write quickly and accurately. It comes with experience – the more you write the better you get at it.

Despite that, I know that there are quite a few passages where I need to scrap what I’ve written and rewrite afresh. My supervising lecturers, (and fellow students) have pointed out that in the early chapters I have managed to have an inconsistent and shifting point of view which is confusing to the reader. It is very important to be consistent with POV in children’s books.

In some cases only a sentence or two need rewriting; in other areas it can be as much as a paragraph or part of a chapter.

There will also be some cultural elements relating to my setting (Nepal) that I still want to include. My first draft was just getting the story down. This element of the rewriting is more fine tuning the story, adding local colour, cultural references, locally used words and expressions and so on. I’m striving for authenticity; all I have at present is the plot. (Perhaps that is being a little harsh on myself! I hope you get the point.)

Editing on the other hand is a distinct discipline. In this stage I will look at all the nitty-gritty elements of spelling, punctuation, word usage, grammar and sentence construction. It really is a nit-picking stage. Basically being an editor with a big red pencil. A bit like how I marked students’ work when I was a classroom teacher in another life.

The editing process is also distinct from the proofreading stage. This last stage is checking that everything is totally correct, that there are no typos and the finished manuscript is perfect in every way. You don’t look for elements of style or even grammar at this stage.

Good writing.

Related articles:

  • Writing a novel – many articles extensively outlining the process I went through while writing a novel for children.

My novel is finished

Writing a novel – a writer’s journal part 19


I actually did it. I have finished writing the first draft of my novel for children. I wrote the last words this afternoon.

My target was 40,000 words which is set down as a requirement by my lecturers. (This is my thesis paper for my Master of Arts Creative Writing degree.) In the end I finished on about 39,175 words which is good. It gives me a little flexibility during the rewriting stage. I know there will be extra things I want to include in a few places. The maximum word count is a guide only anyway, but we really can’t stray too far under or over. In reality it may have been better to be over by a few thousand words; it is much easier to cut rather than add words.

Next stage: rewriting

I’m going to let it sit for a few days before getting back to it. Ideally I might be better off leaving it for a few weeks, but with a deadline of the end of November I don’t have that luxury. The next stage is to go through the whole manuscript, rewriting sentences and passages as needed. I know I have some problems with point of view in the early chapters, for example. I will also sit down with my supervising lecturer and analyse whether there needs to be any structural changes. This will inevitably lead to more rewriting.


The next crucial stage is editing. In this stage I will go back over the whole manuscript, looking at all the fine details of spelling, punctuation, word usage (is this the best word to use here?), grammar and sentence construction. It is a process I do not enjoy. I’ve been trying to get to ‘like’ this stage as an important step in the creative writing process. I don’t think I’ll ever ‘love’ it. At present I tolerate it as a necessary stage towards getting published.


The final stage is proofreading. In this stage I will check every letter, every word, every punctuation mark and make sure everything is perfect.

I have a few busy weeks ahead.

Good writing.

Related articles:

Progress report on writing a novel for children

Writing a novel – a writer’s journal part 18

Progress report

This week has seen great progress on my novel for children. I have had one of the most productive weeks in a long time. It has also helped that my diabetes at last is under some sort of control. Sure, I’ve had a few periods where it has caused a little problem with sleepiness, but overall I am feeling much better. Energized, creative and productive – that’s a good combination.

The momentum with my novel has been building now for quite a few weeks. Over the last week I’ve added on 8000 words. I passed the 36,000 word mark this afternoon which is another major milestone along the way. My target is 40,000 words but we do have a little leeway either way. I still have a chapter and a half to go and that should add 2500 to 3000 more words so I am right on the money with my planning.

Originally I planned to write 20 chapters each of about 2000 words. I’ve generally achieved that. Most are a little under and several are just over. The first chapter was written deliberately short, so that gives me a bit more flexibility in the rest. During the rewriting stage I anticipate adding a few sentences and paragraphs here and there, so I should still be within the word limit.

One of the interesting things that has happened over the last week is that the momentum built up and the total focus on getting the story down has produced some unplanned, unexpected twists. Several times characters have popped up in unplanned ways, giving the plot a little twist which has enhanced the tension of the story.

Another interesting thing has happened with the tension. After about chapter 4 or 5 I realized that I needed to dramatically ramp up the action. I believe I have succeeded in doing this. Aimed at 10 to 12 year old children, it needs to be a page turner. Each chapter needs to end on a high, a cliff hanger, or the desire to want to turn the page to see what happens next.