I write for young children and I also write marketing and health articles. Writing in both genres, I can tell you that writing for children can be much more challenging. When writing for children, there are guidelines to keep in mind to help your story avoid the editor’s trash pile. Here is a list of 10 rules to refer to when writing for young children:
1. This is probably the most important item: be sure that your story does not suggest dangerous or inappropriate behavior.
Example: The protagonist (main character) sneaks out of the house while his parents are still sleeping.
This is a no-no!
2. Make sure your story has age appropriate words, dialogue and action.
3. The protagonist should have an age appropriate problem or dilemma to solve at the beginning of the story, in the first paragraph if possible. Let the action/conflict rise. Then have the protagonist, through thought process and problem solving skills, solve it on his/her own. If an adult is involved, keep the input and help at a bare minimal.
Kid’s love action and problem solving!
4. The story should have a single point of view (POV). To write with a single point of view means that if your protagonist can’t see, hear, touch or feel it, it doesn’t exist.
Example: “Mary crossed her eyes behind Joe’s back.” If Joe is the protagonist this can’t happen because Joe wouldn’t be able to see it.
5. Sentence structure: Keep sentences short and as with all writing, keep adjectives and adverbs to a minimum. And, watch your punctuation and grammar.
6. Write your story by showing through action and dialogue rather than telling.
If you can’t seem to get the right words to show a scene, try using dialogue instead; it’s an easy alternative.
7. You also need to keep your writing tight. This means don’t say something with 10 words if you can do it with 5. Get rid of unnecessary words.
8. Watch the timeframe for the story. Try to keep it within several hours or one day.
9. Along with the protagonist’s solution to the conflict, he/she should grow in some way as a result.
10. Use a thesaurus and book of similes. Finding just the right word or simile can make the difference between a good story and a great story.
Using these techniques will help you create effective children’s stories. Another important tool to use in your writing tool belt is joining a children’s writing critique group. No matter how long you’ve been writing, you can always use another set of eyes.
It you’re a beginning writer and unpublished, you should join a group that has published and unpublished members. Having published and experienced writers in the group will help you hone your craft.