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TIPS ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN
by Jill Morris
- There is a children's writer in all of us. We have all been children and we understand children's joys and concerns.
- It is hard work. Don't be misled by the simplicity and brevity of much of the best children's literature. Simplicity is hard to achieve. It is often the result of dozens of drafts. Brevity means the author has got rid of thousands of words to achieve the kernel of a story which will entice, intrigue and excite children.
- Don't be distracted by the rubbish which is published for children. Writers often make this mistake, which I call the 'I can do better than that' syndrome. You have to do the best you can do. This is an extremely competitive and critical field. For children - only the best will do!
- Don't try to write for all ages at once. Once you have an idea, narrow your focus and decide which age group it will be best for. Make the age group as narrow as you dare. Magically, if a piece of writing works for one age group (say 8-9 year-olds), it may work for everyone.
- Children have different reading abilities and different experiential backgrounds. And modern children think differently from those born 60 years ago. Listen to children and try writing for them, not about them.
- Don't talk down to children. They are not idiots, just human beings at an early stage of development. Respect their intelligence at all levels. But remember the developmental stages which lead to their interests: the loss of front teeth at age 6-7; the confusions of puberty; the rebellious naivety of teenage years.
- As with all writing, try your stories for children out loud. Be aware that some children will have your story read to them; others will be capable of independent reading. When you are writing, be aware of which market you are heading for. If you study the publishing market while creating from the depths of your memory and imagination, young readers will hear your passion, your 'voice' ringing through your writing and pay it the respect it deserves.
- The key to writing well for children is matching your own experience and passions to the experience and passions of your young audience. It may take years to find your 'writing voice'. Go looking for it with energy and tenacity. You can do it!
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