Friday, March 12, 2010

Writing for Children - A Beginner's Workshop

I've been meaning to create an free e-course or workshop for a while now; events have come together and it will be a one-day workshop sometime this spring in the Muse Online Writers' Conference site.

I do reviews and basic editing as well as critiques and see a number of stories that are missing the basics. Some of these stories are self-published and it's apparent the authors did not bother to have their work critiqued or edited. I want to offer help in this area--just to get the writer headed in the right direction.

While I've put together an outline and the basics, I just want to see if there are areas that you writers new to the writing for children arena would like to see added. Or, you veterans out there, what do you think should be added to a basics workshop?

So, this post is to ask your help: Please let me know what you think should be included in a writing for children workshop for beginners.

Any and all input will be appreciated.

Karen Cioffi

Writing, Publishing, and Marketing - You Can Do It!


Janet Ann Collins said...

People who want to write for kids need to read a lot of books written for kids, and not just the classics and those we remember from our own childhoods. Kids are different today and what they read reflects that.

Don't assume writing for children is easier than writing for adults. If anything, it's more difficult because the shorter the text the more important it is to have every word perfect.

And, please, don't preach.

Karen Cioffi said...

Great points, Janet. I'm making notes of all comments so I can provide as much useful information to the attendees as possible.

Thanks a bunch,

Cheryl said...

A good basic tip might be to go over the various age groups and the book lengths for each group.

Another basic that is also tied into age group is what typical or not typical in certain age groups. Middle grade novels might find a boy has a crush on a girl, but it's not a serious thing, whereas young adult novels can have some romantic element.

I hope this helps.


jessi said...

Hi Karen,
I don't know if this is the type of input you're looking for, but when reading with my kids, I notice lengthy description and extended dialogue w/no tags can lose them very quickly.
Major emotional hits, that we as writers of adult fiction aim for, must be treated with "kid" gloves and used only when absolutely necessary.
My two cents. :)

Katie Hines said...

For middle grade kids (I don't know about other ages as I don't write for them), it is essential that you capture them with a hook from the very beginning and be sure that at every point possible, the action be exciting and the characters memorable.

Deb Hockenberry said...

Hi Karen,
I agree with what everyone else has said but nobody has mentioned 'show don't tell.' Why don't you include that along with the amount of description & action for different age groups? I can't wait for you to announce when this workshop is!

Karen Cioffi said...

Cheryl, the different genres and lengths is a must and excellent point to advise on typical storylines for each genre.

Jessi, yes, I've found the same problem while reading books to my grandsons, and the emotional hits goes back to appropriate content for each genre.

Katie, another great point, and it's the same for I think all children's genres--grab them quickly and keep it moving with 3 dimensional characters.

Deb, that's probably the most important issue for new writers, well, that and proper punctuation. From what I read most new writers are unaware that writing needs to show not tell, and unfamiliar with proper punctuation.

Thank you all for your wonderful input. I'll be sure to add each point.


elysabeth said...

All excellent points. I can't think of anything to add right now but this workshop really could be geared towards all levels of writers - beginners and experienced, since we are continually learning every day. I still consider myself a new or beginner writer (I'm still not comfortable saying I am an author or writer really) because I'm always learning something new.

I just taught a lesson on POV to the 6th grade class I virtually visit in Utah and that is a very tough subject to teach. I have Carol Baldwin's book, Teaching the Story, if you would like some ideas of what her mini lessons are like which may be a big help for a workshop for beginner writers of children's books. Contact me and I'll give you an idea of the mini lessons she goes through and who knows something may be the right mix for you. E :)

Karen Cioffi said...

Hey, Elysabeth,

I know what you mean, I feel the same way about calling myself a writer. And, I think writing is an ongoing journey of learning.

I'll contact you, I'd love the info.

Thanks so much for your input!


Penny Ehrenkranz said...

Karen, you may want to include a section detailing the differences between a "slice of life" story and a complete story. It's important for children's writers to have at least three obstacles for the MC to overcome and for that to happen without the intercession of an adult.

Karen Cioffi said...

Hi, Penny.

Yes, time frame is essential for a children's writer. The obstacles and having the MC do the problem solving are also aspects of children's writing writers need to be aware of. Thanks so much for your input!

I'm compiling some great info for the attendees!

Sandy Lender said...

Correct grammar

Children and young adults are learning to read and write as they read books for fun. Even books that aren't "preaching" or "teaching English composition" or what-have-you are still influencing their reading comprehension, vocabulary, spelling, and other skills. The author and editor have a responsibility to provide an error-free text for impressionable minds. It's important.

From Sandy Lender
"Some days, you just want the dragon to win."

Karen Cioffi said...

Thanks so much Sandy for stopping by.
I agree 100%. Everything a child reads influences their learning.

More great info to add to my list!

madcapmaggie said...

Karen --some of the things I'd have liked to have known when I started writing children's fiction --
--the basics of plotting
this was a biggie for me, as I'd never written any fiction at all
--good old 'show not tell'--
although I found this much easier to get my head around than the plotting
--the genres of kid lit, the word counts, etc
this was a big unknown.

storylady said...

I have a story in mind,but am a little confused on where to begin. My story is a "read to" for kids 3 to 6. How many words would a book like this include? How do I proceed? Any input would be appreciated.


Karen Cioffi said...

Hey, Maggie,

Ah, plotting, that's the toughie! I think it depends on which children's genre you're writing in.

I try to touch on all three aspects you mentioned, but with a one day workshop, I'll have to see.

Thanks so much for your input!

Karen Cioffi said...

Hi, Sharon,

It sounds like you're thinking of a picture book and the word count should be under 1000.

I'd advice getting a little background/info on writing picture books.

We'll be touching on this in my workshop. I'll have all the details in my April newsletter and will post something here in April.

If you haven't subscribed to this site why not do it now . . . it's free! You'll also get a free ebook that has some useful writing and marketing information.

Thanks for stopping by!