HOW TO REVISE A children’s book

This article is all about how to revise a children’s book, including advice on how to edit your picture book, early reader, chapter book, middle grade or young adult novel, and then advice on how to submit your book for publication.

What Is a Children’s Book and How Do I Write a Children’s Book?

Before you worry about revising a children’s book, you will want to make absolutely sure you know what you’ve written. “Children’s book” is a term that a lot of writers use before they learn about the children’s book publishing landscape. There is no such category as “children’s book,” as it turns out. There are many different sub-categories, in fact. So what’s the difference between an early reader and a chapter book? MG vs YA? This handy guide answers all of your questions on what “children’s books” are and how to write them with publication in mind: How to Write Children’s Books.

How to Revise a Children’s Book

There are many different categories to the bigger umbrella of “children’s books,” as you can see. If you’re wondering how to revise a children’s book, first, you have to consider the kind of children’s book you’ve written. If you’ve written a picture book, early reader, or chapter book, your focus should be on voice and vocabulary level, in addition to telling a good story. Your readers are either not able to read independently yet, or just starting out reading. You will want to pay special attention to the words you use and the complexity of your sentences. I’m not asking you to “dumb down” your ideas, but the way you express them needs to be simple.

For these categories, read all of your work aloud, especially the picture books and early readers. Better yet, ask someone else to read your work back to you. You’ll be shocked! The language you thought was flowing smoothly might sound suddenly clunky. Zero in on voice here, since these stories are often read aloud by parents or caregivers. (For more detailed information on how to write a children’s picture book, how to write a children’s early reader, and how to write a chapter book, click accordingly.)

Once you get to middle grade novels and young adult fiction, voice matters just as much, but in a different way. Here, your focus should be on colloquial phrasing, coming across as genuine, and building character nuance and vulnerability into your story. Tween and teen readers can spot an impostor a mile away, so if you don’t have the true chops to write for this age group, literary agents, publishers, and readers will let you know immediately. (For more information on how to write middle grade fiction and how to write a young adult novel, click away.)

Consider the experience of your young readers. If you can’t easily tap into what it felt like to be twelve or sixteen, you may want to recast your novel as general adult fiction. Otherwise, don’t just focus on issues your character is having. You need to think about plot. As MG and YA fiction has gotten more commercial, plot has come to the forefront. The idea of stakes is especially important. You can’t just have a kid sitting in their room and thinking about how much their life sucks. A healthy balance of internal and external conflict is key, and these novels really benefit from outlining.

Alas, there is a limit to self-editing. Try as they might, writers can never see their own manuscripts with the type of clarity that others can. That’s why, in addition to getting to know the children’s book market and reading your work aloud, I recommend getting outside feedback on any project that you attempt.

The first idea would be to get a critique group, critique partner, or beta reader. Here’s a link for how to put a team together that will provide you with feedback. But be warned. They are only as good as their level of experience. Everyone is magnificent at having opinions. You want to make sure you’re soliciting worthwhile thoughts that you’ll be able to trust. For more general advice on finding critique opportunities, check out the how to revise a novel article.

The second solution would be to hire a freelance editor. But be careful. Not every freelance editor knows the children’s book markets, so it’s crucial to find one with deep experience. Children’s books, as you’re learning, are a specialized field. These professionals work with kids’ stories every day, and a good one will bring insider publishing industry experience to your project as well, so you’re not just getting craft advice ... you’ll be learning whether your idea has the potential to get published. Here’s a link on how to find an editor.

No matter how you end up approaching the revision process, children’s books are a lot of fun to write and share with eager young readers. This special category can be deeply satisfying to the writers who are compelled to create within it.

hiring an editor to help you revise a children’s book

With this information in hand, decide which approach is best for you. Maybe you’re happy to revise on your own for a while. But there may come a time to solicit outside advice. This usually happens as consider submitting to a literary agent or publishing house. Then, you have options, from beta readers to professional editorial services.

If you like what you’ve read here from me, please don’t hesitate to check out my writing craft book or reach out for editorial services via the contact form, below.

Click here to purchase Writing Irresistible Kidlit, my book on fiction craft for MG and YA novels, out now from Writer's Digest Books. This will show you my writing craft philosophy and give you lots of valuable advice, including tips for the novel revision process and self-editing. There are over 35 example novels cited and discussed throughout. It’s a valuable resource for any writer’s toolkit.

It genuinely feels like you’ve handed me a golden compass so I can trek off in the right direction now to ultimately find buried treasure. I’m so excited to not be wandering around aimlessly on this story any more. I can move forward on it now with confidence.
— Kendra