Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Kid Lit

When I first started writing, I thought I wanted to write for children. It seemed the natural progression for someone who had a teaching background. I taught children in the 8-10 year age group, so I aimed for the middle grade area. Stories and books for 8-12 year olds could tell a real story, not the I see a dog. I see a cat. kind of primary stories that someone has to write.

I enrolled in a correspondence course that promised to teach me to write for children, and it did exactly that. I benefited from the one on one correspondence between me and my instructor. She encouraged me to submit my work to children's magazines, and so began my writing career.

I enjoyed writing those children's stories, but as time went on, I ventured into other types of writing. Nevertheless, I still like to write a children's story now and then. They're not easy to do. You must say a whole lot in very few words.

That means tight writing. No unnecessary words. Every single one must count. Like adult fiction, children's stories need a beginning, a middle, and an end. The protagonist has a problem and must solve it on his or her own. No adults giving them the way out. And they need to do it in a matter of a few hundred words.

Highlights For Children is one of the best-known magazines for kids. They cover a wide age range and offer stories for the primary child and the ones in the intermediate grades. But their top word count for the older kids is only 800 words. A children's writer learns to whittle away at a story until it reaches the maximum word count without losing the story line along the way.

Stories for kids often teach a lesson, but it needs to be subtle. Kids don't like to be preached to. Can't blame them, we don't like it either.

One of the most difficult things a writer for kids must do is to keep up with what kids like today. They aren't going to want to read the kind of stories we had in our childhood. I doubt if The BobbseyTwins wouldn make it in today's world. Even popular stories like Nancy Drew mysteries can survive only if updated so that today's kids can relate.

There are many facets to writing kid lit, and I've only listed a few in this posting. Anyone seriously considering writing for children needs to research that genre thoroughly. Contrary to what some think, writing for kids is a tough job.

No comments:

Post a Comment