Five things all children’s writers should do…

Posted: March 20, 2011 in thoughts

…at some point.

Why? I hear you ask. Because they’re good for our health as writers! In all different sorts of ways. And I’ll say why as I list each point – just so you don’t think I’m completely barmy. So here goes:

1 Make sure you can tweet in 140 characters (ie as usual) what your children’s book is about.

Rationale for this is that we need to have our selling line on the tip of our tongues, because that’s probably as long as we’ll get when we accidentally meet an agent or publisher in Costa.

2 Help some young people to compile and design a newsletter.

Rationale for this one is that in promoting this kind of activity with young people, we get to hear how they speak, discover their values and generally immerse ourselves in their world for a while, on task but not eye-balling – which is when they are relaxed and normal. That keeps our writing on track. And basic layout skills enable us to envisage how a publisher and printer work with our masterpiece further down the line, especially if it’s a picture book.

3 Write one story for children that is the one you most desperately want to read.

Rationale? If it’s old-fashioned, so be it. It gets it out of your system so you can move on. If it’s bang up to date, brilliant, you have something that might work when you’ve polished it.

4 Edit someone else’s writing for children – or if you’re pressed for time, a portion of it. A friend will surely oblige if you explain why.

And the why is that when you get in the habit of noticing other writers’ mistakes (both the approach and the literal errors), you will see your own before you make them or correct them when you do. If nothing else, a better-presented manuscript is one that stays in the publisher’s hands for more than three seconds. OK, the story must then grab his/her heart and mind, but that will be more of a given if you’ve also done point five…

5 Complete a Clean Language metaphor that starts: “When I’m writing for children and young people at my best, that’s like…” Ponder till a metaphor comes up and then develop it over and over again with questions such as What kind of X is that X (your image)?, Is there anything else about X and Whereabouts is X, until you have a fully formed picture of this state of being.

Rationale? Well, a metaphor can be represented by an image, and an image can be recalled at any time to feed you what you need as you write. The extensions you have added to the original idea will play their part along the way as you go from first ideas, to drafting, to editing, to selling to a publisher.

Just to pique your interest, when I’m writing at my best it’s like being at a banquet. I won’t detail that further for now (might next time!) but it gives you the idea of how to start.

So – that’s five things to help you on your way. You’re welcome, as they say.



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