The Ultimate Guide On How To Write A Children’s Book Manuscript

Writing a children’s book is a rewarding and fulfilling experience, as it allows you to create worlds that capture the imagination of young readers. The traditional way of writing a children’s book manuscript involves developing a unique story, memorable characters, and engaging narratives. While AI-powered tools can streamline and enhance the writing process, understanding the basics of traditional children’s book creation is crucial for authors who want to ensure their work has a strong foundation.

In this article, we will explore the traditional way to write a children’s book manuscript, from brainstorming story ideas and creating characters to revising and preparing your work for publication. This will provide a solid starting point before delving into AI-assisted methods.


Choosing a Target Age Group and Genre

Before diving into the actual writing process, it’s essential to determine your target age group and the genre of your children’s book. This decision will significantly impact your story’s content, language, and illustrations.

Importance of Selecting the Right Age Group

Children’s books cater to various age groups, ranging from toddlers to young adults. Identifying the right age group for your story helps ensure that your content is age-appropriate and resonates with your intended readers. Keep in mind that different age groups have distinct preferences, comprehension levels, and attention spans. For example, picture books are ideal for young children, while middle-grade readers might prefer adventure stories with more complex plotlines.

Exploring Various Children’s Book Genres

Once you’ve determined your target age group, explore the different genres available in children’s literature. Some popular genres include:

Picture Books 

Heavily illustrated books with minimal text, suitable for young children.

Early Reader Books 

Simple stories with short sentences and easy-to-understand vocabulary for children who are learning to read independently.

Chapter Books 

Longer stories with chapters, aimed at slightly older children transitioning from early readers to middle-grade novels.

Middle-grade Novels 

Books targeted at children aged 8-12, often featuring more complex storylines, themes, and character development.

Young Adult Novels 

Books aimed at teenagers, typically dealing with themes like identity, relationships, and personal growth.

Book GenreAge RangeAvg. Page CountDescription
Picture Books0-524-32Heavily illustrated books with minimal text, suitable for young children.
Early Reader Books5-732-64Simple stories with short sentences and easy-to-understand vocabulary for children who are learning to read independently.
Chapter Books7-1064-160Longer stories with chapters, aimed at slightly older children transitioning from early readers to middle-grade novels.
Middle-grade Novels8-12160-300Books targeted at children aged 8-12, often featuring more complex storylines, themes, and character development.
Young Adult Novels12-18200-500Books aimed at teenagers, typically dealing with themes like identity, relationships, and personal growth.

By selecting the right age group and genre, you set the stage for crafting a story that will captivate your young readers’ imaginations and inspire a love for reading.

Crafting a Compelling Story Idea

A compelling story idea is the foundation of any successful children’s book. To create a story that resonates with your readers, consider the following steps:

Brainstorming techniques for generating story ideas

🗺️Mind mapping 

Write down a central theme or idea and create branches with related topics, characters, or settings. This visual representation can help you make connections and develop your story.


Set a timer and write continuously for a set period without worrying about grammar, punctuation, or structure. This exercise helps unleash your creativity and may lead to exciting story ideas.

📚Reading Widely 

Expose yourself to a variety of children’s books within your chosen genre and age group. Analyze what works and what doesn’t, and draw inspiration from successful stories.

Refining your idea and creating a unique concept

Once you have a story idea, refine it to make it unique and engaging. Consider the following questions:

  1. What makes your story stand out from others in the genre?
  2. Can you incorporate a fresh perspective or a twist on a familiar theme?
  3. How can you create emotional connections between your readers and your characters?

By answering these questions, you’ll be better equipped to craft a story that captures the hearts and minds of your young readers.

Developing Engaging Characters

Characters are the heart of any children’s book, so creating memorable and relatable characters is crucial. Here are some tips to help you develop engaging characters:

Tips for creating memorable and relatable characters

Develop distinct personalities

Give each character unique traits, quirks, and mannerisms that make them stand out.

Create believable motivations

Understand what drives your characters and how their goals shape their actions throughout the story.

Use relatable emotions and experiences

Connect with your readers by portraying characters who face challenges, learn valuable lessons, and grow throughout the story.

The role of protagonists, antagonists, and supporting characters


The main character(s) of your story, with whom the readers identify and root for. Develop their strengths, weaknesses, and goals to make them multidimensional and relatable.


The character(s) or force opposing the protagonist, creating conflict and tension in the story. A well-rounded antagonist should have clear motivations and be more than just a “villain.”

Supporting characters

Characters who play secondary roles in the story, providing comic relief, moral support, or additional obstacles for the protagonist. Ensure that they contribute to the story’s progression and help reveal more about the main characters.

By developing engaging and relatable characters, you’ll create a story that keeps your young readers invested and eager to find out what happens next.

Building a Strong Story Structure

A solid story structure is essential for keeping your readers engaged and guiding them through the narrative. Here are some tips for creating a strong story structure:

Importance of a solid story structure

A well-structured story helps maintain a clear narrative flow, keeping readers engaged from beginning to end. It provides a sense of direction and purpose, ensuring that your plot remains cohesive and your characters’ actions remain consistent with their motivations.

Different approaches to story structure

Several approaches can be used to structure your children’s book. Some popular methods include:

Three-act structure

This classic structure divides your story into three parts: setup, confrontation, and resolution.

  1. Setup: introduces the characters and their world
  2. Confrontation: involves the main conflict
  3. Resolution: ties up loose ends and concludes the story

The Hero’s Journey

A story structure based on Joseph Campbell’s monomyth theory, where the protagonist undergoes a transformative journey. This structure includes elements like: 

  • Call to adventure
  • Trials and tribulations
  • The ultimate return to their world with newfound wisdom

Freytag’s Pyramid

A five-part structure consisting of exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement. 

  1. The exposition sets the stage
  2. Rising action builds tension
  3. The climax is the turning point
  4. Falling action leads to resolution
  5. The denouement ties up loose ends.

Circular Structure

This structure involves starting and ending the story in the same place, creating a sense of completion and closure. It can be a good structure for teaching moral lessons and highlighting character growth.

Episodic Structure

This structure involves dividing the story into smaller, self-contained episodes that are connected by a central theme or character. It’s a good structure for series books and can be engaging for young readers who enjoy seeing familiar characters in different situations.

Choose the structure that best fits your story and helps you effectively convey your narrative.

robot with pencil and book sitting

Writing the Manuscript

With your story idea, characters, and structure in place, it’s time to write the manuscript. Here are some tips for crafting a captivating children’s book:

Tips for writing captivating narratives and dialogues

  • Write in an engaging and age-appropriate language: Use simple, clear sentences and vocabulary that your target age group can understand and enjoy.
  • Show, don’t tell: Use descriptive language and action to show readers what’s happening in the story, rather than merely telling them.
  • Create realistic and lively dialogues: Write dialogues that reflect the distinct voices and personalities of your characters, while also moving the story forward.

Balancing text and illustrations in a children’s book

Striking the right balance between text and illustrations is crucial, especially in picture books or early reader books. Keep the following points in mind:

Use illustrations to support and enhance the narrative

Visuals should complement the text and help convey the story’s emotions, actions, and settings.

If you won’t be illustrating yourself, make sure you choose the best Illustrators for Your Children’s Book.

Leave room for the illustrator’s creativity

If you’re not illustrating the book yourself, provide enough description to guide the illustrator, but allow them the freedom to bring their unique style to the project.

Keeping the target audience in mind while writing

Always consider the preferences, interests, and comprehension levels of your target age group. Ensure your story is age-appropriate, engaging, and relatable to your intended readers.

Revising and Editing Your Manuscript

After completing your manuscript, it’s time to revise and edit to ensure your story is polished and free of errors. Follow these steps to refine your children’s book:

Self-editing tips

Take a break

Step away from your manuscript for a few days or weeks before revisiting it with fresh eyes. This distance allows you to spot inconsistencies, errors, and areas that need improvement.

Read your manuscript aloud

This technique helps identify awkward phrasing, inconsistencies in tone, and unnatural dialogues.

Focus on structure, pacing, and clarity

Ensure your story structure remains cohesive, the pacing is consistent, and the narrative is easy to follow for your target audience.

Seeking feedback from beta readers and critique partners

Share your manuscript with beta readers

Beta readers provide valuable feedback on your story’s content, characters, and overall appeal. Select readers who belong to your target age group or have experience with children’s literature.

Connect with critique partners

Collaborate with fellow authors or writing groups who can provide constructive criticism and suggestions for improvement.

Working with a professional editor

Consider hiring a professional editor to review your manuscript, focusing on aspects like grammar, punctuation, and overall story flow. A professional editor can provide invaluable insights and help elevate your children’s book to a higher level.

Preparing Your Manuscript for Submission or Self-Publishing

Once your manuscript is revised and polished, it’s time to prepare it for submission to literary agents, publishers, or for self-publishing.

Formatting your manuscript

Ensure your manuscript is formatted according to industry standards or the specific guidelines provided by the publisher or literary agent. Common formatting requirements include:

Font: Times New Roman, 12-point size

Margins: 1-inch margins on all sides

Line spacing: Double-spaced text

Page numbers: Include page numbers in the top right corner or bottom center of the page

Header: Include your name, book title, and contact information

FontTimes New Roman, 12-point size
Margins1-inch margins on all sides
Line spacingDouble-spaced text
Page numbersInclude page numbers in the top right corner or bottom center of the page
HeaderInclude your name, book title, and contact information

Writing a query letter or book proposal

When submitting your manuscript to literary agents or publishers, you’ll need to include a query letter or book proposal that summarizes your story, target audience, and marketing potential. This document is crucial for capturing the attention of industry professionals and persuading them to consider your manuscript. Download a sample you can use for free here.

Preparing for self-publishing

If you choose to self-publish, research the various platforms and services available, such as Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, IngramSpark, or Draft2Digital. Prepare your manuscript for self-publishing by:

  1. Formatting your manuscript according to the platform’s guidelines
  2. Hiring a professional illustrator, if necessary
  3. Designing an eye-catching book cover
  4. Creating a compelling book description and selecting relevant keywords and categories

By following these steps, you’ll be well on your way to presenting your children’s book to the world, whether through traditional publishing or self-publishing.

Promoting Your Children’s Book

Whether you choose the traditional publishing route or self-publishing, promoting your children’s book is crucial for reaching your target audience and maximizing sales. Here are some effective strategies for marketing your book

Building an online presence

Create a website or blog

Develop a professional website or blog where you can share updates, behind-the-scenes insights, and engage with your readers.

Utilize social media platforms

Create profiles on relevant social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, to connect with potential readers and share updates about your book.

Join online communities 

Participate in forums, groups, and discussions related to children’s literature to connect with like-minded individuals and promote your book.

Networking and collaboration

Attend literary events

Participate in book fairs, conferences, and workshops to network with industry professionals and fellow authors.

Collaborate with fellow authors and illustrators

Cross-promote each other’s work, organize joint events, or participate in collaborative projects.

Reach out to influencers and book bloggers

Send review copies of your book to relevant influencers, book bloggers, or YouTubers to gain exposure and reach a wider audience.

Organizing events and promotions

Host book signings and readings

Organize book signings or readings at local bookstores, libraries, or schools to engage with readers and promote your book.

Conduct giveaways and contests

Use social media or your website to host giveaways or contests, offering copies of your book or related merchandise as prizes.

Offer special promotions or discounts

Attract more readers by offering limited-time promotions or discounts on your book.

Measuring Your Success and Planning for Future Books

After publishing and promoting your children’s book, it’s essential to measure your success and use the insights gained to plan for future books. Here’s how:

Assessing your book’s performance

Monitor sales data

Track your book’s sales across various platforms and analyze which marketing efforts contributed to higher sales.

Gather reader feedback

Collect reviews and testimonials from readers to gain insights into the strengths and weaknesses of your book.

Analyze social media engagement

Review the performance of your social media posts and determine which types of content resonated most with your audience.

Learning from your experience

Identify areas of improvement

Based on the feedback and data collected, determine which aspects of your writing, illustrating, or marketing efforts can be improved.

Adapt your marketing strategies

Refine your promotional strategies based on your book’s performance and the feedback received from readers and industry professionals.

Connect with your readers

Engage with your readers through social media, email newsletters, or events to build a loyal fan base for future books.

Planning for future books

Develop new story ideas

Use the insights gained from your first book to create new stories that cater to your target audience’s preferences.

Expand your author brand

Continue building your online presence and author brand by publishing more books, guest blogging, or collaborating with fellow authors and illustrators.

Maintain momentum

Keep the momentum going by consistently publishing new books, attending events, and engaging with your readers and industry professionals.

By evaluating your success and using the knowledge gained to plan future projects, you can continue to grow as an author and create captivating children’s books that delight and entertain young readers.

Leave a Comment