50 Ways to Leave Your 40s: #8 Writing for Children

Writing a Children's Book

It’s no great secret, I love writing.

From an early age I’ve loved writing stories; my favourite homework at school was creating and inventing some wonderful escapism, and no great surprise my best two subjects were both English Lit and English Language. The ability to lose yourself in a world that only you had dreamt up held some kind of magical allure to me; my imagination would often (and still does) work overtime with characters and their adventures.

As I grew older, my passion for writing remained but the time to actually get the ideas out of my head and onto paper seemed to elude me. And whilst I write my weekly blog for my ‘new experiences‘, I still have a thousand and one ideas floating around, desperate to make it onto paper and maybe, just maybe, into a book one day.

And one ‘audience’ that has always fascinated me is children. As an avid reader when I was younger – Mallory Towers and any of The Famous Five books were always glued to my hands – the ability to capture a child’s imagination and keep them intrigued, entertained and maybe even teach them a lesson or two, is no mean feat.

Writing for Children

So, this week I have started an online course on exactly that – How to Write for Children.

I’m only into the early stages of it – Module 2 in fact – but already I can see this is going to be tricky audience to please. The first Module has already made me think about:

What age group are you aiming for?

It’s important to realise that for each age range you will need to cater your vocabulary and how complex your plot is to your target readers’ ages. You need to come up with a balance that means they are challenged but not confused.

Challenged and not confused?! I’m a late 40’s woman who gets very confused about what day it is let alone anything else!

Writing a children’s book can be difficult simply because we are not children anymore.

Our grasp of reality is different, our acceptance of information we are given is different, our sense of humour is different. Therefore, you need to put in more effort to research your target age group and find out what makes them tick, what makes them laugh, what they believe in and what they relate to.

Humm, you’re right, I am not a child anymore…well, not all the time! But I do have plenty of small people around to ask their opinions – or so I thought. I posed the question – what do you like to read – to my 11-year-old niece last night and her first answer was ‘Harry Potter, but you’re not JK Rowling, you’re JM Howell’.

Smart arse. Or should I say smarty pants to start changing my vocabulary to suit?!

However, she then proceeded to get very excited about the thought of me learning to write for children and appointed herself as proof reader/ideas person and illustrator extraordinaire. Watch this space!

But then I thought what if I’m not a natural writer for 11-year olds? (Who surely are THE toughest, most critical market – unless you’re David Williams of course!) What if I find my thing is for the slightly more easy to please 5-year olds? Or even, god forbid, the dreaded teenager?!

So, as I commence Module 3 – ‘Learn From The Best’ – I feel excited, slightly nervous and wondering what I’ve let myself in for by dipping my toe into the scary waters of writing a children’s book. But as the summary of Module 2 says:

There are many skills and qualities a children’s writer needs but luckily many of them can be developed, improved upon and learnt so it really means that writing is something that anyone can do.

Enid Blyton eat your heart out; there’s a new kid in town!

To read more of 50 Ways to Leave Your 40s, click here.


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