Monday, November 15, 2010

Writing for Children

On the weekend I attended a writing festival in my local area. The first speaker was a successful Australian author of children’s books: Deborah Abela. She has been writing for children for 17 years. Below are some tips she shared:

1. If you want to write for kids then you need to be around kids. Run workshops for them, go to their schools, learn what they are reading, what they like, how they think.

2. Never write a book for children with the intention to teach them something. In other words, don’t lecture them and don’t be condescending. She had a great way of saying it: “Write as if you were looking them in the eye.”

3. Kids books need to be kid focussed. They should be about kids with the kids finding the solutions to their problems. Adults should remain peripheral to the story.

4. Kids like pace. You need to cull anything in your story that doesn’t drive the plot forward.

5. The book needs to start with a hook otherwise the kids won’t read past the first page.

6. Stay away from fads of language because it only dates your book. What the kids are saying now may not be how they say it when your book is published.

Deborah offered many more great tips for writing which you might see in another post.

Can you think of other tips that might be helpful to anyone wanting to write for children?

25 comments:

  1. Hi Lynda - what a great opportunity for you! I think workshops like these are awesome (I just need to get to more of them!)! And definitely some good tips - a lot of them I've heard before. I think #1 is key. I have a 13-year-old and I'm always writing down things she says, things she's worried about, things she likes, etc. (same with my nieces and nephews) and hope that when I write I'm just coming off as authentic. I'd love to see more tips, too. Thanks!

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  2. Nothing like a tip from a pro! And that's true, how can we write about kids if we are not around them anyway? God bless sister.

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  3. Donea, Deborah's tips I didn't include were more general tips that can apply to any writer, not just children's writers.

    It's great you are paying attention to, and making notes of all the idiosyncrasies of the children. That will become invaluable.

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  4. Rcubes, it was such a brilliant talk. I could have listened to Deborah talk for hours.

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  5. What an awesome experience!!! I love all the tips you shared with us... I just wrote a poem/story for my little niece and I really enjoyed it, I think I'm going to start going to readings (storybook time) up at my local library to be around children! Help my writing!

    Happy Sunday!

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  6. Great tips, Lynda! Number three is really important...Kids need to solve the problems in the story. :)

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  7. Jen, yes, that's a great idea to head to the storybook times at the library.

    Sharon, yes, that is sometimes forgotten but so important.

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  8. I don't write childrens lit but it seems to me that a lot of these tips are true for adult lit too.

    Jai

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  9. Great tips, I'm thinking about YA books so this is very timely. I guess my added tip would be daydream and write lots and I agree keep the action and suspence flowing.

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  10. It must have been amazing to be there!

    Great tips for writing children's literature!

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  11. what's also great if you wanna be a writer for children is to remain a kid forever yourself :)
    And if you ask me you must have a huge huge deal of responsibility, because kids will learn from your books.

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  12. Jai, yes, that's true. Most of those tips can be applied to adult writing as well.

    Madeleine, daydreaming is a good addition -- and of course writing lots :)

    Golden, yes, it was fantastic!

    Dezzy, growing up is for...well, old people ;) You also make a brilliant point that shouldn't be ignored. Responsibility, I think, is a huge factor.

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  13. I have recently been reminded of kid logic. My nieces lamented no funds for the chocolate shop. So, I gave money to the oldest with the intent she share. The sharing never happened. Their logic is different from ours. Definitely.

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  14. Mary, yarp, kids logic is a LOT different ;)

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  15. Sounds like a great workshop. I just returned Grimson to the library. I'm amazed at children's books these days - they're just so good as are YA.

    You have to get over the NaNo hump in the middle. I'm there. Drinking from a large bowl of suck. It's great to get past it and to power on to the finish line. That happens towards the end of this week. Go NaNo!

    Please come back and collect an award from my site! You're beautiful, you're versatile and honest, so take all three!

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  16. Great tips - thanks for sharing! Starting with a hook sounds so easy, doesn't it? :)

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  17. These are great tips - thanks for sharing them! Since I write YA, I pay a lot of attention to my teenage daughter and her friends - you can learn a lot by observing your target audience. :)

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  18. L'Aussie, Feeling the hump but I was thrilled today because I managed to write 3000 words! Woo Hoo!! Thanks so much for the awards and your generosity.

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  19. Laura, lol yeah, so easy...NOT. I've rewritten beginnings SO MANY TIMES! hehe

    Susan, obsolutely. It helps so much.

    Nancy, it was a brilliant talk. I got so much out of it.

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  20. Lynda...thanks for the lovely tips. I like the idea of workshops and not talking down to children. I feel children's books should be fast paced with loads of twists and turns to keep boredom at bay. Thanks for sharing the tips.

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  21. How wonderful are these tips?!?!?!!? Every one of them resonated with me!

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  22. Great advice! Especially not trying to inject a moral. If there is one, it should come naturally from the story. No kid wants to be lectured.

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  23. Rachna, yes exactly, they should be fast paced fun :)

    Christina, I'm so glad :)

    Lisa, I think it takes some skill to inject a moral without making it sound like a lecture.

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  24. That's some sound advice. I think the most important point there is to actually spend time with children (and children who aren't your own too) so that you know what common likes/dislikes affect all children. I've heard of a few authors who have wrote books with the intention of having children being their audience, but because they never spent time with kids their work was in some sort of weird pre-teen/adult area that didn't work at all.

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