5 Tips for Writing for Children – Guest Post by Desiree Villena…

Writing for children is an extremely rewarding type of creative writing, with little readers often being the most enthusiastic, inquisitive, and invested fans out there. The common misconception, however, that writing for children is somehow an easy feat (presumably due to the shorter length of childrens books, or the assumption that plots are simpler), is just that a misconception. Publishing or self-publishing a childrens book shouldnt ever be approached as an easy fix for someone looking to release a book. Its just as demanding as writing for an older audience, but in different ways.

Of course, demandingdoesnt mean impossible. So, now that thats cleared up, lets take a look at 5 tips for how you can meet those eager childrens demands with your writing.

1. Have fun

The most important writing tip when it comes to childrens books isnt actually anything technical: its simply a reminder that you need to have fun. This part of the publishing world has room for every whimsical, wacky, and totally nuts idea youve ever had, and having fun while youre writing significantly increases the chances of your readers having fun, too.

With an audience that is endlessly curious, trusting, and open to strange and new ideas this is the perfect opportunity to lean into your creative thinking and come up with something wonderful. Whether that means conjuring a world full of magical wonders, a funny or eccentric plot, or writing in rhyme Dr Seuss-style, this is the best genre for letting your imagination run wild and having a blast while youre at it.

2. Create interesting characters

As part of letting your imagination loose, its important to highlight the special significance of creating interesting, vivid, and amusing characters for young readers. Whether its that they have a special quirk (e.g. the wolf in Orianne Lallemands The Wolf Who Wanted to Be An Artist), theyre in a strange new predicament (e.g. Bernard Wabers Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, where a crocodile lives in New York City with a human family, making a neighbor and his cat ever so slightly nervous), or the fact that theyre a creature or monster of your own imagination, the possibilities are endless when it comes to making your characters stand out.

But dont feel pressured to make your characters non-human or otherworldly instead, focus on their personality traits and how they experience their particular circumstances. Think about how you might develop your characters, and how theyll be different in the beginning and end of your story. How will plot events change them? Many narratives starring children contain an element of growth and learning, so consider whether this is suitable for your own story. Just be mindful so you dont confuse your childrens book with a coming-of-age storythe two have distinctly different readerships!

3. Make it vivid and visually engaging

Whether youre working with a childrens book illustrator or simply relying on the narrative to engage your readers, rich visual detail is a winning ingredient in childrens books. From specifying and describing colors and patterns to sizes, heights (remember how big everything seems when youre a child?), and lighting, you want your writing to be as vivid and cinematic as possible so it can immerse and enchant children. This is particularly important for projects set in imaginary worlds, where visual details are crucial for the story to be able to function.

For worldbuilding, however, youll need more than just visual details: anything sensory should be a huge help, so think about the sounds, smells, and textures of your setting as well as its appearance. If you need inspiration, check out Katherine Patersons Bridge to Terabithia, Madeleine LEngles A Wrinkle in Time or any other classic childrens book and take notes of how they do what they do!

4. Structure your story intuitively

Story structure is one of the unsung heroes of writing: if it does its job well, it may not be something youre always actively conscious of as a reader, but if its terrible, youll realize because the story will be a mess to follow.

For younger children, a linear, chronological structure will make the most sense, especially for picture books. For older kids, you can try more complicated concepts, including flashbacks and multiple points of view, but dont go completely crazy if you can help it. Depending on the needs of your story, make sure progression is logical and turning points are clearly signposted!

5. Run your writing past real children

One of the best things that can help you become a better writer is receiving feedback from your readers. If you, a close friend, or a relative has children, you can read them your work and ask them what they make of it. They may not be able to give you extensive editorial feedback, but they can tell you if something is confusing, or which parts they enjoyed the most, which is important in helping you edit and clarify your writing.

This is quite literally market research, so be careful not to be dismissive of the childrens comments purely because theyre children: these are the exact readers youre hoping to impress, so stay open to criticism. Of course, children dont all have the same personalities or taste in books so recruiting as many early testers as possible will give you a more representative idea of how your future readers are likely to perceive your writing.

I hope these tips help, and I wish you all the best with your works in progress!

9 thoughts on “5 Tips for Writing for Children – Guest Post by Desiree Villena…

  1. Great advice, Desiree. You’ve really put things into a nutshell. The other thing I’ve noticed about good children’s books, is they’re also appealing to adults, and there is a level in many of them geared towards the adult reader. I particularly love Dr Suess books and they really pull this off.
    Best wishes,

    Liked by 1 person


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