Materials you might need for this project:
- pens and pencils
- sketchbook / ream of paper / notebook / canvas
- markers, crayons, colored pencils, paints
It’s important to remind yourself that this project is not designed for publication, however we encourage you to develop strong creative ideas with your kids with publishing goals if you are interesting in publishing unique books for children. This project is primarily designed to get your creative juices flowing and to give you time to write and be creative without sacrificing quality time with your kids.
Step 1: Define clear roles for you and your child.
First of all – remember that you should be having fun with this project, but in order to complete it, you will want to have a clear idea of what your role is and what your child’s role is. Here are some examples of tasks that you may want to decide who might be best at:
- creating a fun and interesting character to base your story on
- creating a basic plot for the story
- illustrating the story
- writing the story
My suggestion is for you both to have a part in each role in order to feel like the book you create belongs to both of you, but try to keep in mind what each other’s strengths are. The age of your child is also going to inform what roles they are able to be responsible for. Obviously, if your child is young, they will need some guidance in what tasks you ask them to complete. Ask yourself the following questions before you get started?
- Are you a stronger writer?
- Is your son or daughter good at creating conflicts for characters?
- Which one of you is more of an artist?
- Who do you think is more creative?
- Who can come up with the best ideas?
Step 2: What is the theme of your story?
What is important to you and your family? If you let that inform what your story is about, you will have a stronger more interesting story that everyone can be passionate about. Here are some questions to ask to explore your theme:
- What challenges does your family have?
- What is different about your family?
- Have you experienced something unique that most families haven’t?
- What are your favorite activities to do?
- Is your family affected by any diseases or disorders?
- What careers do the adults in your family have?
- What are your child’s hobbies?
- Do you have any pets?
- What is your favorite holiday?
- What vacations have you gone on?
- What activities does your family enjoy doing together?
- What subjects does your child love or hate?
- What do you like to write about?
- What does your son or daughter like to write about?
- Who is going to be the artist and what do you or your child like to draw?
- What kind of message do you want to send to kids?
Write all of these questions down before you get started. Answer them as thoroughly and as honestly as possible. At the end of this step you will have a long list of possibilities to work with.
Step 3: Create your character.
This is also an important step in the process. The thoughts, feelings, hobbies, and daily activities of the character you and your family create will inform the direction of the story. Are you going to create an animal as the main character? A child? An alien? A monster?
Work with your family member to create a basic text and art sketch of the main character. When you’re happy with what you’ve created, do the same for the other characters in your story. Most stories do not have just one character. Your readers will want to see how your character interacts with the world and the important characters around them.
Step 4: Create a conflict for your character.
Please keep in mind that conflicts for children are much different than conflicts that adults enjoy reading about. A conflict to a child can be something as simple as adopting a new pet, going to the doctor, getting a haircut, cleaning their room, their first day at school, visiting a relative, or going on an exotic vacation.
Write down a list of ten different situations your main character can be challenged by. Allow your family to be involved with this list and write about the one that everyone loves. In order to complete this project, everyone involved must feel valued and happy about the decisions made throughout the entire process.
Step 5: Create a basic plot for your story.
Depending on how long your story is and what age group your story is designed for, this may not be a very long list. However, knowing which direction the story is going will help keep you and your family focused on completing the story.
A sample plot may look something like this:
- Main character goes on a zoo trip with his family.
- He or she hides from his family or gets lost somehow.
- Character and his family spend some time trying to find each other.
- At the end, they are reunited at the main character’s favorite exhibit.
It doesn’t have to be complicated, just specific enough to make the story goals clear to everyone.
Step 6: Write the story.
With your theme, character sketches, conflict, and plot in mind – write the story. If you are the one primarily responsible for writing the story, allow your other family members involved to help write the story as well. It doesn’t have to be a very long story or it can be as long as you want it to be, but whatever the length, take great care to make sure everyone is happy with what has been written.
Step 7: Illustrate the story.
Find opportunities to create fun and interesting illustrations. The best opportunities lie in silly or meaningful moments throughout the story. Be careful not to include too many or too little. However, if you are creating a picture book for very young children, you will want to take great care to include a large picture on every page of the story.
Step 8: Create the book cover.
The best book cover will show your character involved in the main activity in the story. If your story involves a child at school, for example, a meaningful cover image might show the child sitting at their desk in a classroom. This illustration should be as colorful and detailed as possible. If you want to self-publish or get the book published through a professional publisher, remember that the cover image is going to be what attracts both children and parents to your book. It represents your entire story.
Create five different illustrations for the cover and decide together which one represents your story the best.
After your story is completed? What do you want to do? If you had fun with the story, I encourage you to keep writing about this set of characters with your family. It will create an experience and a set of heirlooms that will be priceless, whether you decide to pursue publishing them or not.
If you are interesting in pursuing self-publishing for these projects, I recommend the following book: