How To Write A Children'S Short Story
A comprehensive guide to how to write a child's story. Most new writers believe that writing childrens fiction is easy -right? Wrong.
Writing children’s fiction isn’t the easiest genre there is, nor is it the hardest. Many new writers think that it is the easiest, all you have to do is talk in childish words and make an easy story such as ‘Sam goes to the Park’.
This may be somewhat true for a toddler's story book, but if you are aiming for a 5-7 year old it won’t even come close to the many childrens’ writers of today.
What to do before you put pen to paper:
1. Discover what age you want to write for.
2. Research your market. If you’ve chosen ages 8-10 then read a book designed for that age group.
3. Note the language used, the number of illustrations (if any) the style of pictures, the length and the subject matter.
4. Have an idea of what you want to write about and make sure that it will appeal to the age group.
Once you have discovered the basis and starting point of your story you can continue with your ideas:
1. What message is it trying to convey (if any)?
2. Is it to be an instructional book about a hobby/interest or a story?
3. Will it be a learn-with-mother type book or helping children to learn to read?
When writing a children’s story there are many do’s and don’ts:
..Try to patronize the reader. Think of children as little adults.
..Use too many words which they won’t understand.
..Use babyish words. Contact your local school and ask for advice concerning the words your target age is learning.
..Use stereotypes, slang words or sexist, racist or discrimination at all. The chances are a publisher will dismiss it upon its first reading anyway.
..Use pictures to illustrate. If you are aiming for a low age children need pictures to keep their attention.
..Think about what children are interested in. As a basic rule the more magical and fantastic the better. But your story must have an element of realism.
..Use proper words.
..Think about recent trends. Decide if they are here to stay. Publication can take up to two years, sometimes more. If you are writing about something topical or a recent trend will it still be interesting and up-to-date when it finally gets in the shelves?
When it’s finished
If you know of children of a similar age to your market target, sit with them while they read it and notice the following:
Are they interested in the story?
Can they tell what the pictures are?
Is their attention kept?
Do they enjoy it?
Can they understand it?
If there are any words or phrases they get stuck on, highlight them and later go through and change them to shorter or more appropriate words.
After a few changes, and possibly a few re-writes, if you are happy with the finished story now is the time to seek a publisher. First do some research and look for your favourite books on the shelves and note the publisher’s name and address. Once you have a list of 10-20 publishers send a final copy (neatly presented and typed) to the first on the list.
Never send your story to two or more publishers at one time.
Expect to wait at least six months before querying the fate of your story – write do not telephone. If they have not accepted your manuscript they will most probably return it (you must send a SAE with adequate postage for this) and then just send it to the next on the list.
If after the manuscript has been turned down by more than 10 publishers think again about the story. Could it be better? Try a few more and see the reaction. It is a known fact that Charlotte Bronte had to send the manuscript for Jane Eyre to over thirty different publishers before its acceptance - willpower and determination is the key.