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Writing a children’s book? Three things to know

Posted by Maria Murnane | May 7, 2013

I don’t write children’s books, but my friend Raymond Bean does. He’s the author of the popular Sweet Farts series, so I asked him to share his thoughts on the genre. Here’s what he had to say:

I teach 4th grade by day and write children’s books by night. I spend my days helping young readers sift through the book baskets and find the gems they’ll want to read. Reading, writing, and sharing with my target audience has taught me a ton about the likes and dislikes of young readers.

Obviously, just like writing for adults, there’s not a one-size-fits-all formula for kids. Taste in books varies wildly. I aim for the reluctant reader – the kids who read a few pages of a book, put it back, and repeat. They have a hard time finding a book they’re willing to read to completion. They’re finicky, set in their ways, and (in many cases) avoid reading like the plague. Of course, not all young readers are reluctant; in fact, most aren’t. But if you aim for them, the eager readers should be a cinch!

Do you have kids? If so, check out Raymond's books!

Writing for kids is a blast. Relax, have fun, and trust your instincts. Here are three tips:

  • Kids love illustrations! It fascinates me how even the most basic illustration can really grab their attention. Adding just a few to your book can go a long way.
  • Your title and cover MUST get their attention. Some kids pick books up and put them back so fast the human eye can’t even track it! Whether they’re flipping through the book basket at school or clicking away on their e-reader, you’ve got seconds to get their attention. You might have the best book they’ll ever read, but if your title/cover is weak, they’ll never know it because they won’t turn the page. When I wrote Sweet Farts the working title was Wind. I don’t think it would have reached as many readers if I hadn’t changed it.
  • Keep it real. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing realistic fiction or far out sci-fi. Keep your dialogue real. Dialogue that doesn’t ring true with kids is a death sentence. If there’s one place I stand my ground during editing, it’s dialogue. I’ve had editors suggest changes in dialogue that make sense for adult work, but for a children’s book it needs to stay. Your 10-year-old main character can’t sound like he’s pushing 40. If your dialogue is off, kids will drop your book so fast they’ll be in the kitchen munching on Doritos before your book hits the bedroom floor.

I don’t use illustrations in my novels, but Raymond’s second two points are right on the money for writers of all genres, not just children’s book authors. To learn more about his books, visit www.raymondbean.com.

-Maria

This blog post originally appeared on CreateSpace.com. Reprinted with permission. © 2013 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.

 

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