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So you want to write children's books by Gail Jean Murphy


For years I had ideas for children’s books rolling around in my head. Being an elementary librarian, I’ve had lots of experience with children’s literature. I could write my own, right? The answer is yes. You CAN write those stories that you have thought about for years. You CAN feel the sense of pride and accomplishment at seeing those stories ‘come to life’. I am proof of that! I finally published my first children’s book, and I want to share just how I did it.


I found that the backwards design used so often in my teaching works well for writing children’s books, too. What that means is that you start with an idea and then jump to the END of the story, and work backwards. I came up with my title first: The Day the Banana Split. I jumped to the end: I wanted my banana to become a banana split. Then I worked backwards.

I wanted to do a play on words: split as in “banana split” ice cream sundae, but also meaning “goes away”, as in “let’s split and go somewhere else”. So, working backwards, I had to have the banana start somewhere and then leave. He started in a lunchbox. Okay. So now he had to leave. Why did he leave? He left because he did not get eaten at lunchtime. Where did he go? I put in several places he went. See how the questions make the plot of the story? This is how you write a children's book.


A big stumbling block to writing is getting these answers “right”. You probably have a dozen different ways your story could go. So how do you choose? I found that the hardest part of writing the book is just getting started. How should I begin? What words should I use? The answer is...it doesn’t matter! Just get the ideas on the page. Once you have the gist of the story, you go back and edit. Editing is much easier than writing. You can add words, change words or delete words, in editing. After you edit your first draft, you edit it again. Eventually you will fine tune your book to exactly the way you want it.


Next time: Developing a problem to be solved in the story.


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