Monday, December 14, 2009

Tips on Writing for Children

A friend and I recently had a discussion about writing for children. We were comparing notes; she is nearly finished with a course from the Institute of Children's Literature, and I took two courses from ICL several years ago. Through our little meeting, we decided that writing for children is more difficult than writing for adults.

While this may not be everyone's opinion, nor the final word on the topic, many would agree that there is more to writing for children than meets the eye. Targeting specific ages, choosing the right market, keeping the appropriate tone and not being preachy, making the tight word count yet telling an appealing story - the list goes on. Sure, these are things that we must consider for adult writing, but writing for children seems to include more angles. One reason may be that the market is slim. The general children's market is large, but when you pare the age groups down, such as 8-10 year olds, it narrows the field. Writing for adults can include a bigger slice, like 30-45 year old women.

Another thought along these lines - some think that it's easier to write for children, for, after all, they are ONLY children. Only children? Yes, well, these children are tomorrow's parents and leaders. They grow up to be adults, and how these adults turn out affects how things go in the world. Writing for children provides the opportunity to have a part in that future, and to make a difference. A good difference! Now if that doesn't cause a writer to take care, then I don't know what will.

Other than approaching writing for children with prayer and discernment, there are basic guidelines that help put a good children's story or article together. 5 Tips for Writing for Children, written by Tracey Dils, author of You Can Write Children's Books is one example. Ms. Dils shares five key points that help a writer navigate these waters. Writing for children is an awesome opportunity, but like writing for any other group, we need to do our homework.

What are your thoughts, have you ever written for children? If not, do you plan to in the future? What tips have you found helpful? Share them with us!

Blessings, and Happy Writing!


  1. Karen, as you know I write for kids. And it is a rewarding yet tough choice for any writer. I write for that age, because I want the chance to make a difference in their lives. To show them the wonderful world of reading. :)

    Hmmm, the best tips I can offer are these, use humor whenever possible. Kids love to laugh. All kids, even those that THINK they're grown.

    Read the endings of books written for children. Then you'll have a feel for the way kids books always end.

    Use active verbs.

    And use single POV. Especially in MG and under. Great post. :)

  2. Good points, Robyn! Thanks for sharing your expertise with us. Happy writing to you, and blessings for the new year as well. :)

  3. My 11 year old loves me to read to him. He is not a big reader but will happily listen if I do the reading. We have had some great times together as a result. Getting to the end of a chapter which is halfway through something exciting or significant is such a fun experience, especially when I pretend I may not read anymore as it is bed time etc. Good hooks at the end of a chapter make us both eager to keep going. :)

  4. Dorothy, That's another great point. My kids enjoyed those cliffhangers too, and it was a good way to keep them interested in the story. Thanks for dropping in. Blessings!

  5. I've never written for children because I know it's HARD! I admire everyone who does.

    We teach our students to give the meat of Scripture in VBS in bite sized pieces. I would imagine it's the same for a writer as well.

  6. I agree, Kristen, that's yet another good point. Thanks for stopping by! Have a blessed week:)

  7. I've never written for children, and I really don't think I will. I just don't have the voice that will capture their little imaginations!

  8. Tamika, As you stated, writing for children isn't for everyone. But you do have the voice for many other things! Blessings:)

  9. Hi Karen, I wrote for my own children when they were young. I'm wondering if I should do something with those stories. I'm so involved with my historical women's fiction now, but my children's stories have a very special place in my heart.

  10. Carla, I think you should! In your spare time, of course...:) If not now, then someday. Why not? It would be a neat legacy for your children and grandchildren. I'm no expert in the field, but if you wanted someone to bounce ideas off of about them, let me know. Blessings!

  11. Ive never written for children, but I am constantly amazed at the simplicity of some children's books. Just a few words on a page that mimic another book. Then I know there are lots of great writers out there who have a difficult time getting published. I think to write a really good book for children must be tough. I'll stick to adults! I enjoyed this post.

  12. Hi Jan,
    Glad you enjoyed it and glad you stopped by:) I've thought that too, about how simple some children's books are. Guess it's knowing which simple words to use:) Blessings!

  13. Though I LOVE children's books, I cannot ever imagine that being part of God's plan for me.

    Well, perhaps something like "Beautiful Joe," "Pippi Longstocking," "Black Beauty."

    Never say never!!!

    Great post.


  14. Karen: I started out writing for children, but when a rejection letter included a pamphlet entitled, "How to Write a Children's Book," I knew I was on the wrong track. LOL!
    I haven't given up yet. I hope to someday try my hand at it again.

    Audience of ONE

  15. Hi Karen -

    Years ago, I wrote some short Christmas pieces for my Sunday School class. Other than that, I've never attempted to write for children.

    There's a book out on age-appropriate vocabulary for children. I can't remember the name of it, but perhaps an Internet search could unearth it.

    Susan :)

  16. Hi Jeanette,
    Nice to see you here. I vote that you go for it someday. Thanks so much for stopping and becoming a follower. Blessings!

  17. Thanks, Patti! Well, it's not necessarily God's plan for everyone. I think you're doing pretty well where you're at:) Blessings!

  18. Susan, Good tip! Thanks for sharing it. Blessings to you:)

  19. Karen:
    I tried writing a series of skits for children. I asked a frien of mine who works in Children's Ministries at our church. She gave it back to me and said,"Children don't talk like that."
    I was picturing these children as I thought the were back when I was a child.
    Two strikes against me- I leave children and young adult writing to those gifted in that way.

  20. Cecelia,
    Nothing wrong with pursuing other writing avenues! Thanks for stopping by:) Blessings!

  21. I'm pretty sure I could never write for kids. It definitely sounds harder. Smaller wordcount, but I still have to make a story. LOL

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! :)

  22. Hi Jessica,
    Thanks for stopping by here, too! Blessings to you:)

  23. Hi Karen, love to read your post, I can only speak as a Mum regarding this subject, we always read to our children and they had their favorites, they still talk about them and for Christmas for instance I still buy children's books for them amongst other things, and they are respectively 19, 18 and 16!!!. A firm family favorite is "So much" by Trish Cooke. I try and work out what it is we all love so much apart from the illustrations of course, I still don't know, just the love I guess. Thank you for your visits by the way. xxx

  24. Hi Raymonde,
    Thanks for stopping in to visit and sharing your thoughts. I'll have to check out that one by Trish Cooke. I enjoy visiting your blog; you are a blessing:)

  25. What a blessing you are to the many that draw inspiration from your ideas, resources, challenges and questions. I am among them.


  26. Kathleen, Thank you so much for the kind words! I needed them today, truly. Love to stop by your blog; I'm glad I investigated it. Blessings and hugs!


Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Have a blessed day!