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All about writing for children

Don't worry, you will not be subjected to a long ramble about my delightful progeny - another time perhaps.  Today I shall be talking about writing for children, writing about children, and writing as a child.

I'm currently doing some work with Louise Jordan of The Writers' Advice Centre on authors who are writing for children.  It's one of the hardest jobs a writer has, pitching their writing at the right age group.

The balance has to be struck between being entertaining and engaging, not patronising, but not confusing and unnecessarily complex.  There is no better homework for a children's writer than to read children's books.  It's not just a case of seeing what's out there in the market, but also getting a sense of how authors are tackling tone and complexity.  What are your favourite children's books and why?

Writing about children - often authors use children as plot devices, but don't actually engage with them as characters.  A similar effect is seen in soap operas where children appear infrequently, never need babysitting and can change appearance quite drastically from one episode to the next... 

As a parent, I don't feel I have to read about children, I'm quite happy to escape them for a bit.  I do get frustrated though when a main character gets to fly to Buenos Aires without a glimmer of a need for childcare.. Keep it believable - if not real.

And finally for today's article - writing as a child.  The best example of an author using a child as the narrative voice I've come across recently is that of Jack in ROOM by Emma Donoghue.  Based on recent horrific cases of women being held captive in tiny spaces for years, Donoghue has managed to take something almost too terrible to read about - and not only made it interesting, but has kept the child narrator believable, fascinating, and extremely likeable.

She has said in interviews that she followed her own child around like a linguistic miner - looking for clues, and picking up patterns. If you are going to write in a child's voice, listen to as many children speaking as you can - but stick to children you know or you're going to get some very funny looks.


If you found this article useful, you might want to take a look at:

Writing for children: Tips and Advice

Writing for children: Getting Started