So, here I am – wildly unqualified to write this post and fully preparing to write it anyway. Kinda like how I felt about co-authoring and illustrating a children’s book for my niece.
Here we go.
I’ve dabbled in a number of different novels. I’ve had the occasional affair with a short story. I’ve indulged in fanfic. Writing children’s stories are the hardest by far, and here’s why: ya can’t fudge it.
If you’re writing fanfic for yourself or a friend or even to share with the vast anonymous hoards of the internet, you don’t need to be that great. You don’t have to have good grammar, good structure, or any of the Aristotelian unities. If you’re writing a novel and your plot is a little weak, you can compensate with a fantastic premise, a sparkling character, or a heart-stopping setting. Short stories require greater precision and sharper points, but they can still be boring.
Children’s stories? No. You have to have an engaging character. You must have a concrete plot. You cannot survive if you fail in structuring everything solidly. It requires the utmost in the form of writing. It doesn’t matter if the prose sounds more like Tennyson or more like Doctor Suess as long as it follows the form. And, in our case, it had to be illustrate-able.
But the thing about my writing style is that I LIKE TANGENTS. I like wandering off over the mountains with my characters and taking plot twists in unexpected directions and following them wherever my whimsey might lead. Children’s stories, by contrast, are almost an elevated sort of exercise in outlining. Most good picture books could be extrapolated into novellas or even novels.
My brother and I decided we wanted to gift our beautiful red-headed niece with picture books just for her. So for her first two birthdays (and hopefully her third), we have succeeded in completing and printing a colorful little volume for her eager hands. I’ve been wondering what to post about now that I’m nearing the end of my “Sketch” Series, and I think I may just have to wander down the next memory lane: Harlow the Dragon Rider.