Unlocking the Writer Inside: Books as a team sport!

The Big Bottom Hunt, my first picture book, was my introduction to how picture books are put together. When I visit a school, most kids assume I wrote the words and drew the pictures. So I show them the names on the cover, to prove I did the words, but Gaby Grant did the pictures. 

However it’s harder to see the work other people put into books. Producing a book is a team game. The writer has the idea and writes the story. The editor finds an artist (to do the cover for a novel, or the illustrations for a picture book) and makes sure the words and pictures work together. The editor also encourages the writer to get all the words in the story right. 

There are lots of other people involved in making a book: production designers, printers, marketing people, also booksellers, librarians, delivery drivers…and, most important, the people who read the books.  

You can recreate that teamwork in the classroom. The simplest group would contain a writer, an editor and an illustrator. The writer writes the draft of a story, the artist illustrates it, the editor makes suggestions about how to strengthen the story. 



Write the story! Then…

Do the artist’s pictures tell the story you saw in your head?

Is the editor making useful suggestions to improve the story? (You don’t have to do everything the editor says!)

Remember it’s your story, no matter how many other people are involved!



Whether you are doing one cover or lots of illustrations, your job is to bring the story to life. But you must draw the most exciting bits of the story, not just the characters standing in a line. Work with the editor to decide which scenes work best.



Your job is to make this story as good as it can be, not to change it into another story. 

Things to look out for:

Repetition (The same word used lots)

Action which isn’t clear (Who got killed here? The monster or the prince?)

Places where the story could be more exciting (Could they fall down the stairs, rather than walk down?)

Boring description (Do we really need to know the pattern on the wallpaper or the colour of her shoes?)

Spelling mistakes and dodgy punctuation (Which are much less important than the strength of the story!)


For a larger team, you could include:

A marketing director writing a blurb, a press release and a booktrailer

A bookseller designing a window display

A journalist interviewing the writer

A teacher planning a class project based on the book


Now you’ve made a book together, as a team! (You could swap round and do a different job next time.)

Not getting it right first time #1
The Big Bottom Hunt is about two kids looking for the person whose bottom fits a bottomprint they found on the beach.
But would the story work if they found the right person, first time?
Do the characters in a story need to get it wrong a few times before they get it right, for the story to work?


Not getting it right first time #2
I love being edited, because even after writing more books than I have fingers, I still don’t get it right first time. And I don’t show the editor my first draft, nor my second. I often reread and redraft a book 100 times before I let anyone else see it. Even then, my editor always notices a few things which could be improved. No story is perfect first time. There is always something you can change to make it better.

This blog is part five of a series of blogs by children's writer Lari Don. Click here to see the full series!

Lari Don

Lari Don is an award-winning children’s writer who writes novels, picture books, retellings of old folklore and novellas for reluctant readers. She also works in schools and libraries with children of all ages, sharing her passion for stories and encouraging children to write their own. Check out her child-friendly writing blog at www.laridon.co.uk/blog or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.