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A Solution To The Problem Of Writing For Children
Many aspiring writers decide the way to start their career is to write for children. And they tend to have two very good reasons for deciding this:
1. The woman that wrote the stories about the boy wizard is doing very well for herself and I want some of that
2. Itís much easier to write for children Ė there are fewer pages and the words donít need to be as long.
I will start by saying, in case you hadnít guessed, that I think these are the worst two reasons in the world to start writing for children.
If you were serious about entering the fray, I would start by asking if this is something youíve dreamed about for a very long time? If it isnít, I question your dedication and your knowledge of the market.
You should write for children because you want to write for children. If you come in from the angle that itís either more lucrative, or easier, then you are doomed to failure.
So if you have chosen writing for children because you think it will be easier, let me put you straight on that score. Itís actually harder. The skills in writing a story are broadly speaking as difficult to write any genre but with adult books, you have a strong link with the audience. After all, youíre an adult too.
An adult that has the mindset to write at a child writes bad childrenís books. In this authorís mind, the adult knows best what the child wants. Good childrenís books are written for the audience, not at them. However young they are, children can tell the difference.
Children want to read books they can relate to. In this respect, are they any different to adults? Most thirty-year olds canít relate to a child in any other way than as an adult. They need to be able to relate to them as a child Ė and thatís easier said than done.
This is why writers with children will always have an advantage over non-parents. If youíre around children 24/7, you get to know them. You know whatís on their level and whatís condescending. Children tend to let you know!
Childrenís books have different rules too. For example, children like things polarised. They donít like shades of grey. Give it to them straight but make sure itís at one end of the spectrum or the other.
When adults write for children, they often canít resist the opportunity to tell a strong moral tale. After all, adults know best. Children see this as preaching and will run the proverbial mile from it.
Another difference is that children expect the good guys to win Ė always. No exceptions whatsoever. If you hadnít considered these points and couldnít list at least a dozen more ways that childrenís books need to differ from adult ones, you need to do your homework.
The second aspect that is tougher for many childrenís books is that it can be a challenge to work out who your market actually is. The obvious answer is children, but depending on the age range, it quite often isnít the child thatís buying Ė and in some cases not even reading the book. So the story needs to be good enough that the child reads it and wants more as well as pitched right so that the parent/gift-giver will choose it before all the others on the shelf.
Having said all of this, the fundamental reason that an adult book is successful is the same for a childrenís book Ė itís a good read. If you can write a good story and follow the rules, thereís no reason why you canít be a successful childrenís author. Just remember that writing a novel for young adults is anything but childís play.
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