Writing for children is often more difficult than for the adult market because of younger readers’ requirements. To navigate the maze, take some tips from Tracey Dils, author of You Can Write Children’s Books:
1. Know your audience. Know what issues elementary-school-aged kids are dealing with at various grade levels. Learn how these issues vary from boys to girls. If you aren’t around kids often, try talking to elementary school librarians, spending time at recreation centers or offering to read at story time in bookstores or libraries. Also, consider visiting classrooms, interacting with children on the playground or coaching a sports team.
2. Choose characters who are your readers’ age or a bit older. Make sure they are authentic, believable and likable.
3. Unless it has a historical setting, make sure your story sounds contemporary. The plot should have a contemporary problem, your characters should speak in contemporary style and the characters themselves should seem as if they could live in today’s world.
Kids live in the present. They relate best to modern speech and situations: concepts they have experience with. Spending time with children will familiarize you with typical conversation and give you a sense of their vocabularies.
4. Use dialogue to move your plot forward. Make sure your dialogue sounds natural and contemporary.
Dialogue not only keeps young readers engrossed in the action, but also makes the page appear less formidable by breaking up the text.
5. For early readers and chapter books, don’t overlook folk, tall and fairy tales as sources of inspiration. These subjects would be less likely to sell as novels for middle grade readers.
Remember to keep sentences and vocabulary as simple as possible. If in doubt, consult a thesaurus to streamline usage. Dils recommends using more complex words several times in succession so the reader can decipher the word from context. Repetition is one way children master reading, she says. And isn’t that the most important consideration in children’s writing?
For more guidelines on writing for children of all ages:
You Can Write Children’s Books (Print Edition)
You Can Write Children’s Books (Download)
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