Writers’ Toolkit – some words on writing for children

Audience at November's Writers' Toolkit 2012

Audience at November’s Writers’ Toolkit 2012 – pic courtesy Writing WM

Earlier last year I began to write a book for children, testing snippets on my two boys. They seemed to like it, more so when I threatened to withdraw ice-cream and Star Wars DVDs.

It’s provisionally called The Witch’s Bottle and I intend to edit the first draft at some point! I’ve had an exceptionally busy turn of the year writing. I’ve completed the first draft of my novel (provisionally titled Blood has the last Word), sent out a handful of short stories and started work on a travel piece. I’ve also been pretty busy on social media…so this piece is a little later than usual.

In November last year I attended the Writers’ Toolkit at South Birmingham College (thanks to Writing West Midlands I went along as a member of the Room 204 writers’ development programme). The day was broken up into a number of interesting activities and discussion groups. I went along to discussions on writing for radio, self publishing with Roz Goddard and Writing Outdoors with Dr Greg Leadbetter and Jonathan Davidson of Writing West Midlands (which was held indoors).

I was intrigued by the Writing for Children and Young People workshop. The panel included Birmingham-based Juliette Claire Bell – author of The Kite Princess and Don’t Panic, Annika! The advice from the panel was very practical. Often, workshops and discussions surprise those attending. Perhaps they don’t expect such practical advice as ‘get something down on paper’ or write 500 words a day. Stephen King’s On Writing is a great example of sound, practical advice. Don’t just be in love with the idea of being a writer, Write! It is, arguably, becoming harder to be published and there are rules. It is important to know these rules if only to understand how to break them.

So, a few tips from Juliette and the panel:

  • You’ve got 40 – Yes Forty – words to make an impact (must be immediately engaging)
  • Has to have Re-Readability – adult and child have to be able to face reading it again and again
  • Think of the gatekeeper – who will buy this book?
  • Make the language simple
  • Write from inside
  • Write in first person
  • Relate a childhood experience

They’re simple points, but useful. I think of how many times I’ve read The Highway Rat or The Gruffalo and understand just how important re-readability is.


About richlakin

I write about things that interest me
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