Can you write for young kids? I once planned to write a series of books for kids. I ended up writing just one before I aborted the idea. The hardest part of the exercise (for me) was choosing the right words and phrases to suit my targeted age group. Writing a story is one thing. Researching words your young audience will understand and approve of is quite another.
See also: How writers build their characters
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Can you write for young kids
Writing for young kids needs an original ideaKids aren't long suffering (I've got three). If there's even a slight resemblance to a story they're heard before they'll be happy to let you know. Your story has to be an original idea when you're writing for kids because unlike adult readers, they won't appreciate the reference to Joyce or Wordsworth. The idea also has to be sustainable and kept at the same pace all the way to the very end. There's to be no let-up - no slow parts where you're allowed to give your reader a back-story. Kids don't do back-stories. As the popular snack saying goes, 'once you pop, you can't stop.'
Writing for young kids may require a talent for drawingSome kids' writers do the illustrations themselves. When the potential agent asked me to send my story, she requested that I sent some drawings along with it. I got my oldest daughter and husband together and quickly organized a draw-fest between the two, as they're the best artists in the house. The simple fact is that in these financially unstable times, agents/publishers would prefer to hire someone who can do both. I was told that illustrators charge a handsome fee (which is why they wanted me to present the drawings). It's also beneficial to meet with them and talk through exactly what you want. This, of course is not an easy feat. Of course, many children writers do not draw, but these are either already well-known or established. In case you're wondering, the agent did not take me on.
You have to have a page turner if you want to write for young kidsFor parents who read to their kids and for kids who read by themselves, you have to think carefully about where the page turns will be. Everything has to be strategically placed when you write for young kids so there's a small cliff hanger at the end of each page. Kids get distracted very easily. Unlike the adult who'll wade through thousands of pages to find out who's responsible for the dome in one of Stephen King's latest books, the child doesn't care about the end of the story unless the writer makes her/him. (Did I say I have three kids?) Young kids need incentives to keep reading the story, and no amount of skilful prose or grandiose delivery would do the trick. They want words at the end of each page that says in no uncertain terms, 'turn me.'
Use involvement tactic when you write for young kidsYoung kids want to be involved within the stories they're being read. Parents want to be entertained while they read them.The Gruffalo is a perfect illustration of this. Kids are fascinated by this creature with the poisonous wart at the end of his nose and the turned out claws. Parents are entertained by the snake, owl and other animals as they try to trick mouse into getting into a position where they can devour him. As the story unfolds, mouse is cleverly victorious. How the Grinch Stole Christmas involved exactly the same idea, while playing around with language in a very amusing fashion. This encouraged both kids and parents to 'live' the tale over and over. Hairy Maclary is another favourite of mine. This is a very simple book that uses repetition and masterfully clever illustrations to draw in the older readers and young listeners/readers alike. After about 4 reads, my kids and I could say the book out loud with confidence.
Have you got tips for writing for young children to share? How do you cope with finding the cliff hangers and what style do you employ to keep your young listeners/readers interested? I've included some useful links below for you if you're looking for more tips to help you write for young kids.