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A Solution To The Problem Of Writing For Children

May 23, 2008
Many aspiring writers decide the way to start their career is to write for children. And they tend to have two very good reasons for deciding this:

1. The woman that wrote the stories about the boy wizard is doing very well for herself and I want some of that

2. It's much easier to write for children - there are fewer pages and the words don't need to be as long.

I will start by saying, in case you hadn't guessed, that I think these are the worst two reasons in the world to start writing for children.

If you were serious about entering the fray, I would start by asking if this is something you've dreamed about for a very long time? If it isn't, I question your dedication and your knowledge of the market.

You should write for children because you want to write for children. If you come in from the angle that it's either more lucrative, or easier, then you are doomed to failure.

So if you have chosen writing for children because you think it will be easier, let me put you straight on that score. It's actually harder. The skills in writing a story are broadly speaking as difficult to write any genre but with adult books, you have a strong link with the audience. After all, you're an adult too.

An adult that has the mindset to write at a child writes bad children's books. In this author's mind, the adult knows best what the child wants. Good children's books are written for the audience, not at them. However young they are, children can tell the difference.

Children want to read books they can relate to. In this respect, are they any different to adults? Most thirty-year olds can't relate to a child in any other way than as an adult. They need to be able to relate to them as a child - and that's easier said than done.

This is why writers with children will always have an advantage over non-parents. If you're around children 24/7, you get to know them. You know what's on their level and what's condescending. Children tend to let you know!

Children's books have different rules too. For example, children like things polarised. They don't like shades of grey. Give it to them straight but make sure it's at one end of the spectrum or the other.

When adults write for children, they often can't resist the opportunity to tell a strong moral tale. After all, adults know best. Children see this as preaching and will run the proverbial mile from it.

Another difference is that children expect the good guys to win - always. No exceptions whatsoever. If you hadn't considered these points and couldn't list at least a dozen more ways that children's books need to differ from adult ones, you need to do your homework.

The second aspect that is tougher for many children's books is that it can be a challenge to work out who your market actually is. The obvious answer is children, but depending on the age range, it quite often isn't the child that's buying - and in some cases not even reading the book. So the story needs to be good enough that the child reads it and wants more as well as pitched right so that the parent/gift-giver will choose it before all the others on the shelf.

Having said all of this, the fundamental reason that an adult book is successful is the same for a children's book - it's a good read. If you can write a good story and follow the rules, there's no reason why you can't be a successful children's author. Just remember that writing a novel for young adults is anything but child's play.
About the Author
Mark Walton is the author of 17 Simple to Follow Ways to Improve Writing a Children's Book, a self-help guide for writers. If you want to improve your chances of getting a story published then visit http://www.betternovelwriting.com/Childrens.htm and see how quickly and easily your writing can advance.
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