A branch of professional writing and publishing that stands by itself, is Children’s Literature. Its goal is to entertain, sometimes educate, inform and delight all children, from birth to junior high school. It is not diluted adult literature. Despite some opinions, it is not easy to write. In fact, it is probably more difficult than adult literature because of level restrictions, and grade appropriateness. It isn’t a “second class” form of writing for those who are not good enough to write for adults.
Actually, if you’ve chosen to write for children, you will require a special talent that is unique in this occupation. Also, you will require a very specific set of skills that is strictly applied to writing for children. I imagine that at the time of your reading this blog, you probably have a bunch of stories already written, or a slew of ideas ready to go… The only problem is, you’re not sure where to go with them. My blogs will cover this too.
If you are anything remotely comparable to what I was when I first began to write, you’ve probably been giving the idea of writing for children a lot of thought. So what now? I bet you’re a great storyteller. Perhaps, children love to listen to them and tell you how great they are.
The important part of writing is acknowledging it as a skill, not necessarily a talent, and skills can be taught. Another good thing to always keep in mind, whether you are published or not, is that you must always hone your craft by constantly learning, constantly striving, and constantly believing in yourself.
So back to Children Literature. I believe there is a list of must-haves when it comes to writing, and an even bigger list when it comes to writing for children. I’ll list three in this blog.
Must-haves number one. If writing for children is something you desire to do, then you absolutely MUST master the foundations of grammar. Take classes, even ones online (which I do even now), to brush up on your usage of grammar.
Must-haves number two. I can’t stress how important spelling is when writing for children. You are setting the example. It is EXPECTED that you spell your words properly. Now don’t go on about spell check, because tenses of words are often missed by spell check. If you are writing in the English language when English is not your first language, you need to master this language if you are planning to publish in English. Again, take online English courses that include grammar. Even though I’ve been writing for years, I still take online courses to refresh my English skills. With the absence of vocalizing your story, the words on paper have a heck of a job to do.
Moving on… Must-haves number three. Hone your punctuation skills. Many would argue that this skill is part of grammar, and perhaps… it is; but, I make it its own must-have because of its importance. Punctuation affects the “flow” of your sentences, the ease of understanding the emotion behind the sentence, and maintains the readers’ focus. Broken, misplaced punctuation causes your readers to lose interest in what you are telling them. Too much punctuation, or an over use of it can confuse and lose the adults who may be reading the story to their child.
Remember, before the book reaches the child reader, it passes through a multitude of adult hands. Yes, you are writing for children, but you have to convince the adults in the child’s life that your book is worthy for their child to read or listen to it being read to them. Professionally written material is a must. Do not under-estimate the child reader holding your book by writing beneath their age level.
The child reading your book cannot hear your voice, cannot hear your tone of voice–the emotions in the story you are telling, so it’s up to the words of the author, and only that, to bring the child into the story and experience the intended emotions.
If the books are illustrated, and most children’s books are, a team atmosphere is created between the illustrator and the author. The emotional goal is therefore achieved by combining the written word with visual aids. If the two do not compliment each other well, then once again, the child reader’s interest is lost.
The whole purpose of a child’s book is to take the reader on a journey to another world, land, place from which they return richer emotionally and spiritually. Their creative juices are peaked and nurtured. Their imagination grows to greater, and satisfactory proportions. What an accomplishment for you, if this is successful!
Although fantastically creative, Children’s Literature is also a business. If you wish to be a professional writer, then you automatically become a businessperson. So you will need to take business courses (many online too) on how to run a business, manage contracts, market your product, publicize your writing, and arrange many events to self-promote yourself. What do I mean? Won’t your Agent or Publisher do this? Well… not exactly.
In this day an age, whether self-published or traditionally published, you–the writer, will still have a lot of work to do even after you’ve written the book and it’s published. Nowadays, much of the marketing and self-promoting is placed on the author’s shoulders. Budget cuts don’t allow for big event attendances, unless the author has done a lot of the prep work for it; and often, even contributes to it financially. You’ll be expected, in most cases, to create your own website, book most of your events and pay for travel and attendance… that is unless, you’re a movie star, or a well-seasoned and proven multi-published author, like Stephen King. Maybe one day, huh? 🙂
So you see, writing is not easy, nor is it a pampered and posh profession. It’s a grueling world of constant critique, hard word, relentless failure, driven obsessions, and for some maybe, an impossible dream. It takes a lot of time–a LOT of time, and you’re going to struggle with balancing life around it. But, if you are determined to be a writer for children, then the rewards far outweigh all the rest. Read, read, read… educate, educate, educate… practice, practice, practice… I think you see where I’m going with this.
SOMETHING TO REMEMBER:
Adults in Children Literature should populate stories only as background or secondary characters. In my Iggy Squiggles Series, my secondary characters, Gramma and Grandpa Squiggles are simply silhouettes. Children and teens want to read about people their own ages or slightly older. They are not wanting adults characters in their book choices because, let’s face it, they tend to take over a story.