Four Tips for People Who Want to Write for Children

Thursday, October 29, 2015
That fake-o smile over there? It looks like the one I give people who chat me up about children’s writing and then make the big reveal. “I normally write for adults/teach/climb mountains but I want to do something quick and easy and make some money out of it.”

Nine times out of ten, I wish them luck and make my way to the punch bowl. They don’t want to know how to write for children, but you’re different. You’re a Muffin reader. That means you take writing seriously. Here are four tips for those of you who want to write for children.

Don’t assume writing for children is easier than writing for adults. If you write, you know writing is hard work. Writing for children is harder than writing for adults because, in addition to knowing how to write, you have to know about the different levels of books.

Know what type of book you are writing. Is it a picture book or a chapter book? An early reader or a young adult novel? You need to know because a picture book is vastly different from an early reader. There is also the fact that certain genre sell at one level but not another. Mysteries? Think middle grade. Romance? Young adult.

Research your audience. When you write for children, their developmental stages effect what makes a good book for that age level. A middle grader is starting to identify more with their peers than their parents. A young adult is finding her place in the world and questioning what her peers think as well as continuing to challenge her parents.

Remember the story. New writers often have a lesson to teach. Kids don’t want a lesson. They want fun. You can include a lesson but hide it under the story. Melanie Watt’s picture book, Bug in a Vacuum, is about a bug that gets sucked into a vacuum but is also a lesson on the stages of grief. That’s obvious enough to an adult but a child want to see if the fly gets out.

There are amazing opportunities for writers who have great stories to share with young readers. Before you break into the children’s market, you’re going to have to do the work to get to know them and their books. I’ll leave you to figure out whether it’s quick and easy.


Sue is the instructor for our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins on November 9, 2015.


Stephanie Bearce said...

Love this article!

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