On Writing for Kids

There are no secret formulas.  There is no right way to write. When you set your pen to paper, tap your keyboard to begin, you are setting off in a direction unknown even though you may have a shadow of a plot for your story.  Writing picture books is closer to poetry than prose with an economy of language in the thirty-two pages between the covers.  I have had authors of novels look at my books and say, “I could never do this.  It’s too hard.”  A successful picture book can take months of rewriting to find the precise language to move the story along with so few words.  Writing in rhyme adds another challenge. You must mesh your story with the cadence and precise syllables of the rhyming scheme.  Sometimes after the preliminary illustrations are submitted, I have had to rewrite the text because the words just did not work with the images.   It’s all this tweaking that makes your writing appear effortless.

I have found children’s authors and illustrators to be the most sharing, generous group of people I have ever met.  I suppose it’s because they do what they do for love!

More tips on writing for kids:

  • Read. Read. Know your genre. Know your audience.
  • Read your story out loud. Picture books are read out loud. They have to sound good as well as look good.
  • Think like a kid. If you’re writing for a four year old, try to remember what you were like at that age.
  • Picture books don’t have to rhyme. Bad rhyming can kill a good story.
  • Write the book you wish you had but couldn’t find.
  • Join SCBWI – The Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators. Their conferences and local chapters provide a wealth of information and encouragement for published and unpublished authors.
  • Befriend your local children’s librarian. Their knowledge of children’s literature is invaluable.
  • Join a critique group, preferably in your genre.
  • Get a cheerleading squad, friends and family who will support you and cheer you on until your first published book arrives on your doorstep.
  • For a whack on the head, a kick in the pants, read books on writing. You won’t feel so alone in this solitary pursuit. Below is a list of my favorites.

Favorite Books on Writing

Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White – Melissa Sweet
On Writing – Stephen King
Take Joy – Jane Yolen
If You Want to Write – Brenda Ueland
Bird by Bird – Annie LaMott
Still Writing – Dani Shapiro
Writing Down the Bones – Natalie Goldberg
On Writing Well – William Zinsser
Reading Magic – Mem Fox
Ways of Telling – Leonard S. Marcus
Writing Picture Books – Ann Whitford Paul

I am available for writing workshops for aspiring authors of all age levels, including adult.