The Best Tips on Writing for Kids and Teens

Author:
Publish date:

What are the most common problems in picture book submissions? What are the most important differences between middle-grade and young adult stories? What makes for standout writing for young readers? Top literary agents who represent writing for kids and teens delve deeply into their best craft tips and industry insights to answer all of these questions and more in the hot-off-the-press March/April 2016 Writer's Digest.

Writing for Kids and Teens

Once Upon a Time

At a neighborhood party recently, the adults on my street were discussing the fact that I’m newly slated to become a published novelist with a mixture of fanfare, curiosity, and something akin to suspicion. What fun, I thought, having people suddenly wonder what’s going on in my brain! Nothing like fielding a series of odd questions to make you feel like a “real” writer, right?

But then my neighbor’s second-grader spoke up. “You should write a book for kids,” she said.

“I do have one idea,” I told her, and then, not really thinking, spouted a one-line description of my half-baked picture book title. It wasn’t anything I’d thought seriously about writing, just a story I made up to make my son giggle. Imagine my surprise when all the kids in the room erupted into laughter. They squealed and cheered. “Yeah! Write that!”

In the stark contrast of that moment—and the recognition that adult readers are unlikely to express quite such unabashed enthusiasm for work we’ve been laboring over for years—I glimpsed it: The true joy that children’s writers have the privilege of tapping. Who wouldn’t want to be one?

I think children’s author and literary agent Ammi-Joan Paquette describes that privilege perfectly in her March/April 2016 Writer’s Digestarticle on writing fantasy stories for young readers:

“How clearly I remember my childhood experiences of being catapulted into a book world. … That first tumble into Wonderland is not easily forgotten, and it’s also something that can’t quite be replicated in adult life with the same intensity. The worlds you inhabit in childhood are stitched into the fabric of who you will grow to be. How lucky we are, then, and how big a responsibility rests on our shoulders, to be the ones shaping these worlds for the next generation of readers!”

A key part of this issue’s “Writing for Kids and Teens” feature package, Paquette’s article is a gold mine for those aspiring to write middle-grade or young adult, whether you aim to transport readers into a fantastical alternate universe, or simply to make the novel world in your own imagination seem just as real to them.

Writing for Kids and Teens

So, too, is the "4 on 4" agent advice in our fast and furious roundup, in which a quartet of literary agents specializing in writing for kids and teens weigh in on four key questions that reveal what those looking to break in to the genre most need to know. As for me, if I ever do decide to write that picture book, I’ll bookmark Marie Lamba’s enlightening “10 Picture Book Pitfalls to Avoid—and How to Fix Them," another highlight in this info-packed issue.

The March/April 2016 Writer's Digestalso says a fond goodbye to Reject a Hit and introduces new back page column Platforms of Yore, in which the literary greats of yesteryear take social media by storm. It’s a fun and collaborative effort: Read more about the column and how you, too, can Write for Platforms of Yore.

With unabashed childlike enthusiasm, we do hope you'll preview the full contents of the March/April 2016 Writer's Digest, download the issue instantly, or look for it now at your favorite newsstand or local library.

Yours in writing,
Jessica Strawser
Editor, Writer's Digest magazine
Subscribe today. Your writing will thank you.

Follow me on Twitter.
Connect with me on Facebook.

Amir

The “Secret Sauce” Necessary to Succeed at a 30-Day Writing Challenge

In this article, author and writing coach Nina Amir lays out her top tips to master your mindset and complete a 30-day writing challenge.

Kane2

Crashing Into New Worlds: Writing About the Unfamiliar

Award-winning crime author Stephanie Kane explains how she builds characters unlike herself and navigates their worlds to create vivid and realistic stories.

plot_twist_story_prompts_without_a_trace_robert_lee_brewer

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Without a Trace

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character leave without a trace.

WDVintage_10_29

Vintage WD: The Truth about True Crime

In this article from July 2000, true crime novelist and former New York Times correspondent Lisa Beth Pulitzer shares with us some key insights for breaking into the true crime genre.

new_agent_alert_barb_roose_books_such_literary_services_adult_christian_fiction_and_nonfiction

New Agent Alert: Barb Roose of Books & Such Literary Management

New literary agent alerts (with this spotlight featuring Barb Roose of Books & Such Literary Management) are golden opportunities for new writers because each one is a literary agent who is likely building his or her client list.

Grinnell_10:28

Evoking Emotion in Fiction: Seven Pragmatic Ways to Make Readers Give a Damn

Evoking emotion on the page begins with the man or woman at the keyboard. Dustin Grinnell serves up seven straightforward tactics for writing tear-jerking stories that make your readers empathize with your characters.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 546

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a spooky poem.

Richard_Shadowlands

Learn Better World-Building Strategies Through World of Warcraft and the New Shadowlands Expansion

WD editor and fantasy writer Moriah Richard shares five unique ways in which writers can use World of Warcraft to better build their worlds—without playing the game.