A child’s imagination is a wonderful thing.
The suspension of disbelief comes easy to them. As we get older we think in terms of our willingness to suspend our critical faculties and believe something surreal whilst sacrificing realism and logic for the sake of enjoyment. In short, we tend to over think things and for authors writing for an older audience this brings its own challenges but it doesn’t mean children aren’t discerning readers. In fact, given the breadth of their imaginations, they often prove more challenging to write for with any modicum of success. Not simply because young readers thrive on well-crafted novels that tap into their sense of fun, curiosity and passion for new ideas. There’s the inescapable fact that with each generation, children change and that ethereal line between the child an author once was and the children they come to write for in their later years often leaves them out of step with what young readers really want to read. Search the internet for advice on writing for children or younger readers and you’ll be inundated with it. You could write a list of pointers as long as your arm.
The trick is to not over think it!
Never forget who you are writing for. There really is no substitute for an original story that is well told but children’s authors intent on growing an enthusiastic following would do well to keep the next two tips in mind as they really are the foundations of success when writing for younger readers.
1 It may sound like a cliché but you really do need to immerse yourself in the genre in which you are writing. You need to read the bestsellers. Past and present. Mammoth titles like Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling, The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss or A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. Yes, they have different themes but they are superb examples of authors who have really understood the rhythms and patterns that youngsters adopt when they interact with each other and the world around them.
2 The second tip is to write it your way. Assuming that a book is well-written originality always stands out and more so when writing for younger readers. Remember what we said about that ethereal line between the child an author once was and the children they come to write for. Remember how you liked to be surprised? Successful children’s authors let their inner child shine through. Publishers and editors pick up on it straight away. It’s hard to distil into words but there is a certain kind of magic that opens up when an author stops agonizing over their words and simply writes. Above all enjoy it!
The above points may seem incredibly simple and they are but it’s amazing how many would be children’s authors don’t take the time to truly reflect on them. If you are currently in the process of writing a book for young readers or about to pen your opening chapter your thoughts are always welcome and as always we hope our latest post has created a spark of reflection.