Friday, 20 June 2014

Writing for Children - Tip 1

I have been fortunate enough recently to be invited to visit several schools and read sections from Vlad the Inhaler. The most delightful aspects of these visits are the Q&A sessions that follow the readings. The children invariably come up with questions that make me stop and think about why I included a particular character, why I chose to set Vlad in a fictional country, or why I gave him so many problems to deal with.

Today I am posting the first in my series of tips on writing for children. I hope you find them useful and, more to the point, I hope that in the future you will be able to enjoy the same amazing interaction with your own readers that I’m currently experiencing with my new fans of Vlad the Inhaler!

Tip One 
It’s important not to have preconceived ideas of what makes a good children’s book. Allow yourself to think freely and the inspiration will flow.

Try not to think: I’m writing for children.  This could hamper your creativity, and cause you to write down to the perceived age group, instead of writing from the heart.

The story is all. It needs to grab your young audience from the outset, and take them on a bold, fast-moving roller-coaster ride, that enthrals and doesn’t let go.

Don't pad your writing with long descriptions of scenery or characters. 

If the setting is a creepy castle, it’s okay to have lots of cobwebs clinging to faces, or if you are writing a fantasy novel, the dragon’s fire can be given a complete description, but long drawn-out details about the countryside or anything similar will be a definite turn off.

Don’t be tempted to remind your readers of the plot repeatedly. Children are surprisingly good at remembering who characters are and why they are there.

The action to story ratio needs to be much higher in children’s novels than in books for adults. Keep the story moving and engage their interest, but, above all – have fun! If you do, your readers will, too.

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Frances Evesham said...

These are great tips and i'm looking forward to your future advice- nothing like taking expert advice. Thank you. I have two children's books under the bed- who knows! Do you think we need to write very differently from,say 10 years ago to connect with today's savvy

Lorraine Mace said...

Hi Frances, thank you for reading and commenting.

To answer your question, I think we have to be very careful about including use of technology, unless writing in a fantasy world. For Vlad, this wasn't an issue, but for another series my agent has just taken on to market for me, I have had to give a lot of thought into how to include the internet, phones and everything else that today's youngsters take for granted.

I've also had to walk a fine line regarding swearing and attitudes to authority. It has to be realistic, but not so much so that parents would not want their children to read the books!

Anna Mitchener said...

THANK YOU very much Lorraine for these writing nuggets of pure gold! There is so much to consider and balance when writing, so these short, digestible posts will make for great reference points during the process. I am already making good use of them as I'm writing my children's book. Thanks again and i look forward to more posts :-)