HOW TO WRITE STORIES FOR CHILDREN – FIVE RULES
This list will help you avoid the common mistakes a lot of writers make when writing for children.
1. DON’T THINK WRITING FOR CHILDREN IS EASY
Do not decide to write stories for children thinking it will be easier than writing for adults. Writing stories for children is certainly different, but it is certainly not easier. Children are discerning readers – just take a trip to the library and see how quickly they dismiss books they don’t like.
If you have freedom of imagination and the ability to see the world from a different perspective you might have the ability to write stories for children, but not everyone possesses these characteristics and some people are just more suited to writing for adults.
Writing for children is hard work but if you honestly enjoy the writing it won’t seem like hard work – you will be itching and burning to write some more and that is the important difference.
2. DON’T CHEAT THE CHILDREN
Don’t decide to write for children thinking you can get away with story problems that you couldn’t solve – that is certainly not how to write stories for children.
Children are not stupid and they are just as capable of feeling cheated by a story as any adult. They will object if a character you placed in an inescapable trap is suddenly free without having gone through a very convincing struggle so it is very important for a writer to plan a story and you can learn more about story planning here.
If you are encountering difficulty making a plot work, or having problems making one of your characters believable then you have to work it out, or leave it out. If you can’t work it out then you may have to accept that the story isn’t working and just leave it and move on. I have done this many times and regard it as a learning experience. Always remember that the children’s section is not a dumping ground for badly plotted or ill-conceived stories.
3. DON’T PREACH
Don’t write for children if you just want preach at them, or teach them. If all you want is to tell children to be good then write a manual, or a book of rules. Children’s fiction is there to entertain and any learning should be indirect. You should want children to love your stories and to inspire them to read more – this is true learning.
Yes, of course are themes and even morals in children’s stories and choosing a theme is important but the most important thing is the story. Is it a story that kids can’t wait to get more of? Do they want to read to the end? Not if they are being lectured on how to be a better kid, or how to beat other kids at sums.
Do you want them to enjoy reading your story or endure reading your story? Do you want to shove reading down their throat as another compulsory box to be ticked? Or, do you want them to love reading so much they carry on reading on their own and without being told to? As a writer I know which I want.
4. DON’T TEACH
The same goes for education – it should be secondary. There are textbooks whose aim is to educate, so if your only desire in writing for children is to educate them, then write a text-book. If a child learns something about nature because a character in a story experiences something exciting while trying to burrow their way out of an underground cave then that is fantastic, but if all the story does is teach them about nature without anything exciting happening to characters in the story then that is a text-book. Be aware of the difference.
5. DON’T RELY ON IMAGES
You cannot make the mistake of relying on illustrations to liven up a story, all that illustrations can do is enhance a story but you cannot depend on images to save a story that is sinking. Pictures are wonderful and can add so much to a story but beware of telling yourself that ‘it’ll be okay when the pictures are done.’ If your story is not okay before the illustrations it will not be okay after. You are the writer and you need to make sure your words are telling an exciting and compelling story with or without illustrations. Illustrations offer suggestions to the imagination but it’s your words that paint the picture.
You will find more about how to write stories for children here.
If you would like to see some of my own children’s stories and learn more about my own personal writing for children experience go to my children’s stories page.
Best of luck with your writing and don’t forget if you have any questions or comments I’d love to hear from you.
P.S. All the information on the site is free for you and the only thing I ask is that if you found this helpful please leave a comment below. Please feel free to ask questions. I will always do my best to help.