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Fiction
When Writing For Kids (Kid's Lit)
By Steve Cross
May, 2006, 10:48

If kids don't like your story they'll tell you, so consider it constructive criticism.
S
o you want to write for children? The first thing you need to do is ask yourself why. If you say, "I think it would be easier to write for children than it would be to write for adults," do the kids a favour and write something else.

Despite what some people might think, writing for kids is not easier. Keep in mind the specific challenges: You have to write something a kid doesn't want to put down; you have to write something as good as the books you used to read when you were a kid; you have to write something that will make a kid forsake his video game. It's not an easy job.

Have you read a good children's book lately? Read the kinds of children's books you want to write. Go back and read the children's books you read when you were a kid. Recently, I re-discovered one of my all-time favourite children's books. David and the Phoenix was first published in 1958. Re-reading this book as an adult, I re-lived all the childhood joy I first experienced when I read it as a kid. It refreshed my vision of what children's writing is all about.

If I asked you about your most favourite book when you were a kid, you would have no trouble not only thinking of a book but also giving extensive details about it. Think of the impact children's books made on your life. Can you imagine the joy that was in your eyes when you read those books? That delight is magnified by the memories associated with it. If you remember the happiness of being a child and would like to see that enjoyment in kids today, write for them.

Use your memories and their emotional impact on you to create compelling stories for today's children. Do you remember when you were a kid and your best friend betrayed you? How did that feel? Do you remember the first time someone you loved died? What was your experience surrounding that? Do you remember how the challenges your toughest teacher gave you not only developed your mind and creativity but also your sense of pride in your accomplishments?

Consider other memories from your childhood: Your first fight, your first boyfriend or girlfriend, the time you got away with breaking the rules, the first time you got in trouble at school, the first time you heard where babies come from. Childhood moments emblazoned in our minds and hearts are a great source for stories.

Another good way to get in touch with your inner child and connect with children is to volunteer at a school. You can tutor or serve as a reader. If you have good stories of your own, get involved with storytelling. Libraries and schools often have storytellers come in and entertain classes.

Perhaps you can start with the school you graduated from or the one where your children go. You may want to tell the teachers you are writing a book and you'd like to try it out on their students. The kids and the teacher might find it fun to help your endeavour to become a published writer. Be prepared; kids are honest. If they don't like your book or your story, they will likely tell you so. Consider it constructive criticism.

These are ideas to get you started. Above all, you have to tell a good story. Get your  stories directly from children you interact with and from your own childhood memories. Writing for kids is an opportunity to re-experience an earlier time in your life. Are you up for the challenge?

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Steve Cross has been a freelance writer/educator for over 20 years. During his career he has published fiction, poetry, non-fiction and several plays. In 2007, Wings ePress will publish two of his novels, both for middle grade readers. He lives in Arcadia, Missouri, with Jean, his wife; Megan, his daughter (a writer herself); and several pets. Email: thecrosses@gmail.com


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