Is Writing For Children Easy?
Today’s guest post comes from author Sharon C. Williams.
Her short stories have been published in the anthology, Cassandra’s Roadhouse, and the Dragons in the Attic anthology, which was written by her writing group, The Wonder Chicks.
The second edition of her children’s chapter books, Jasper, Amazon Parrot: A Rainforest Adventure, and Jasper: Amazon Friends and Family were published by Peculiar Possum in July of 2019. Volume three, Jasper, Amazon Parrot: The Perils Of The Jungle, was published November 27, 2019. Her comedy novel about her war with her backyard squirrels, Squirrel Mafia, was released in 2015 by Peaceful Musings Publishing, followed by an anthology titled Everyday Musings, which was published in in 2016 by Lysestrah Press. She has two short stories in the anthology The Reading Corner: Book One which was released by Fountain Blue Publishing in 2016.
Sharon is a native of New England raised in Northern Maine. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and son. She is also owned by a flock birds.
I walked into my writing group and sat down across from Ted. When he found out I write for children he scoffed, “I could write a children’s book in one night. There’s nothing to it.”
What was worse was the author next to him asked, “Really?!” as if Ted spoke the truth.
At another meeting when I mentioned that I was researching my books, I was asked why was I doing that for a children’s book.
Sadly these assumptions are not uncommon.
Every book, regardless of genre, should follow the same format. They need dialogue, plot and setting, character development and so much more. I have to develop a story that will work and that will make my reader keep reading.
The key words here are keep reading.
I still have to edit, revise, edit and revise again. Repeating this cycle so many times until I’m satisfied with it. I still need an editor, cover, promotion and marketing and everything else an adult novel gets.
I took the first draft of my first book by two daycare centers. I wanted the children to tell me what worked, what didn’t, and other any other thoughts they had about it.
One girl pointed out there were some words she didn’t understand. Another brought up the fact that a certain scene just went on and on. I had a few run on sentences that I had not caught. A small boy raised his hand slowly. When I called on him he asked what was the name of the main character’s mom. It turns out I had flip flopped with her name from Sally to Sarah!
I was impressed. My two writing groups had not caught any of the mistakes these young readers had!
The children didn’t hold back. Because children at that age are honest and aren’t thinking of hurting anyone’s feelings. They’ll give you the absolute and unfiltered truth.
Every book requires a hook that works. As adults we’ll give an author a chapter, if not more, before we put it down. Children will not go into a fourth of the book if they don’t like it. If you don’t grab their attention they will have already moved on to another book.
Kids aren’t dumb. They know what they like and don’t like. If a children’s book isn’t developed in the same manner as any other genre, the book will fail. It will fail miserably.
But not only that. Writing for children has to be done in a way that is not above their heads or beneath them. They’ll catch on to that quick and that book will be discarded.
Every book in every genre deserves the same meticulous care that goes into writing a well developed and wonderful novel. That also involves research. Kid readers deserve that same care to detail as YA and adults.
Research can help a writer figure out how to write dialogue, address concepts so a specific age group will understand. It is easy to write with no understanding of or care for the reader’s age group. That doesn’t mean they will like it.
Cutting corners because of the reader’s age does a disservice to the book and the readers it is intended for.
Children readers are a fan base that needs to be addressed regardless of whether or not all authors respect the genre. Those readers deserve the best book possible from the authors who write them.
Children are readers. We want them to continue to be readers. If we fail children at this stage why would they ever want to continue to read?
Most authors are readers. Many started young and grew into being avid and compulsive readers. Why did we continue? Because we came across books and authors who knew how to write for us at those different ages.
Writing for children is rewarding and very challenging. And it is a challenge I gladly accept!