Writing for children isn't easy but it's wonderfully rewarding. It's also much harder than it used to be many years ago. That might seem an odd thing to say, but if you look at many (most) of the children's books written a generation ago you'll find them missing many "rules" and conventions which now apply; you'll find them getting away with plot devices and happenings that won't wash nowadays; you'll find enormous competition with many more books and writers than there used to be; you'll find gate-keepers who have different agendas from each other and from the readers; and you'll find a standard and range of linguistic techniques and possibilities unlike anything that went before. (Whatever Martin Amis may think.)
Here are some of the things you need to know about before you are likely to be published as a children's writer:
- word count for age range
- pages and spreads for picture books - including managing illustrations (but NOT doing them...)
- ramifications of the need for co-editions
- age of characters for age range
- wtf are age ranges about anyway?
- topic / themes appropriate for age of audience
- boundaries and barriers
- the rules that modern real-life children are bound by - parents, social services and damned mobile phones!
- character development
- rights and wrongs - where can or should morals come into it?
- safety-nets and the fear factor
- educational vs trade writing
- colloquial language use - including managing swearing
There are some writers who seem to know and do all this naturally. If that's you, you're probably published already. But if not, and if the list above leaves you feeling a little bit lost or worried, or if you'd like to understand much more, or to have reassurance that you're on the right lines, I can help you. You might be halfway through your first draft or even your fourth, or you might be about to start: whichever, I can help.
I was going to write a book about this, as some of you know. I've had to postpone that indefinitely, I'm afraid, owing to "pressure of stuff". But it doesn't matter because I'll be doing the workshop and you can all come. Well, no, of course you can't all come, so, for those of you who can't, I'll drip-feed some learning points in blog posts over the coming weeks. But the written word can only achieve so much: nothing beats the
And then, of course, there's the chocolate, the wine, the free signed copy of Write to be Published, and a glorious crabbit bag! Booking is now open - don't delay.