Resources for Children's Writers
Tips for Writing for Children:
1) Keep in mind the age of your target audience. Use words they will understand, and make sure your young characters do not use words that are beyond their developmental ability.
2) Publishers of juvenile fiction are looking for memorable characters (remember Curious George, Eloise, Amelia Bedelia?). Once you've developed that strong character, think in terms of a series of stories about him or her. This is the age of the multi-book deal!
3) Use the same plotting techniques that work in adult fiction. Introduce your conflict early on to "grab" the reader. The tension until that conflict is resolved is the key element in a good story. (Do not, however, have so much tension that children are terribly uncomfortable reading -- or hearing -- the story. There is a fine line between creating suspense and anxiety!)
4) Show rather than tell. For example, don't say, "Sally was sad." Show it instead: "Two teardrops trickled down Sally's cheeks."
5) Look for fresh phrases, new ways of saying things. For instance, instead of saying "flat as a board," try something different like "flat as a floor."
6) Children love word play. Not just rhyming sounds but unusual or funny-sounding words (long live Dr. Seuss) as well. "Kyle loved the whoosh and poosh of Starbuck's breathing when he groomed him." Yes, it's fine to make up words!
7) Go over your manuscript line by line. Have you used strong, active verbs whenever possible?
8) Avoid using adverbs like "really" and "very." It's said that if we choose the right words we won't need those adverbs.
9) Don't preach or point out the moral of your story. Readers were accustomed to hearing the moral of the story at the end of children's books back in the 1950s. Publishers steer away from that now; it's too heavy-handed. They prefer that you show the lesson rather than tell it.
10) If your children's book is nonfiction, make sure your information is accurate. Research your topic as diligently as if you were writing for adults. Children's publishers check facts; a sure way to have your manuscript rejected is to include misinformation.
Below is a resource list I compiled for writers in my workshop, Writing for Young Readers. Whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction books for children, or writing stories and articles for children’s magazines, you will want to know about these organizations, great websites, and books for children’s writers.
The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)
An international organization formed in 1971; acts as a network for writers, illustrators, editors, publishers, agents, booksellers, etc.; 18,000 members worldwide; sponsors two annual conferences and dozens of regional conferences; publishes excellent bimonthly newsletter; presents annual awards for fiction and nonfiction.
Institute of Children’s Literature
Toll free number: 800-443-6078
Based in West Redding, CT, the Institute of Children’s Literature has for more than thirty years provided information, education, and support for children’s writers. Visit their site to find information on how-to books, writers’ markets, their newsletter, contests, and courses.
Write4Kids.com - This site offers how-to information from published children’s authors, "insider" secrets about the world of children’s book publishing, interactive tools, a free e-zine, and more.
The Purple Crayon - www.underdown.org - A site developed by a children’s book editor that covers publishing trends, tips on query letters and cover letters, interviews with editors, and pertinent articles. If you’re interested in writing multicultural books for children, click here: www.underdown.org/multicul.htm. You will find a helpful article on the subject, along with a good resource list.
www.writing-world.com/children - excellent articles on writing for children; links to sites with children’s book reviews, critique and discussion groups, and more.
www.aaronshep.com/kidwriter - Author Aaron Shepard’s "kidwriting" pages include lots of free articles, tips, resources, and an excellent list of how-to books.
www.ucalgary.ca/~dkbrown/newbery.html - information on the American Library Association’s Newbery Medal and Honor Books. Great site to review titles/names of medal winners for years past. (It never hurts to read children’s books that have won prestigious prizes!)
www.smartwriters.com - for anyone who writes for, reads to, or teaches children. Site includes helpful information for beginning children’s writers, markets, and contests.
Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market
(A Writer’s Digest book, updated every year or two)
The Business of Writing for Children
by Aaron Shepard
Children’s Writer’s Word Book
by Alijandra Mogilner
Creating Characters Kids Will Love
by Elaine Alphin
How To Write for Children
by Tessa Krailing
How To Write for Children and Get Published
by Louise Jordan
Young at Heart: The Step-by-Step Way of Writing Children’s Stories
by Uri Shulevitz
(These magazines often include articles about writing for children.)
The Writer - www.writermag.com
Writer’s Digest - www.writersdigest.com
Writers’ Journal - www.writersjournal.com