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How To Write For Children...

When David Walliams first came to my attention, he was one half of the comedy duo that wrote and starred in a radio, then TV show, called Little Britain. (Matt Lucas was the other writer/performer.) When David emerged as a children's writer, I was prepared to be very open-minded - however, not many successful actors/adult writers can make the transition to books - and the children's market is a very hard one to crack.

But... I was wowed in spectacular fashion.

Over the years I have so enjoyed the TV adaptations made from his books - I also read Grandpa's Great Escape and it was pure magic. The subject matter of this book is completely relatable and the plot line is full of adventure. I loved every page of it. In fact, if you've been thinking that David's books are not for you as you are well above his targeted age range, think again. What he writes is pure escapism, set in our modern world, and I do believe that children from 6 to 106 would get great joy from his stories.

His books would be loved by you if you also enjoyed reading Roald Dahl's books when you were younger. David has often been compared to this great author, but he has his own style and I think comparing authors is not so good. We all need to write in our own way.

Here is a wonderful interview with the author as interviewed by Michael Rosen - another great in the pantheon of children's authors.

If you have ever wanted to write for children, first of all you need to read a lot of children's books.

Choose a cross-section of books to read: written in many styles, by all types of author and meant for each children's age group. (Read only those which have been popular over the years, as you need to focus on what children really love!)

Next, take a notepad and write down what you liked most about each book.

Note the characters' names, where they live, which time frame the book is set in, whether it's realistic, fantasy, magical, full of scary stuff etc. Which age range the book is aimed at and if you can think of a wider age range.

Then, look into whether the book has been made into a film or a production for TV.

Lastly, try to find out how many copies of the book have been sold since it was first published.

Work your way through each book and keep making notes - but do enjoy reading them. If you do not enjoy reading a book, don't continue with it, that won't be a book that inspires you to write your own.

It can be quite hard to find a publisher if you decide to write only verse for picture books.

Many publishers in fact state they don't seek submissions of picture book verse - but I have ghostwritten picture books for people who have found publishers, so I know that for every rule, there is always an exception.

In terms of picture book authors, my favourites include Michael Rosen, who I mentioned yesterday and Julia Donaldson. If you decide to write verse or prose for this age group, keep your sentences short and your words simple.

Children who love picture books will most probably be learning to read with an adult, and then they'll revisit the book when they are more word-confident.

Have a look in the young readers' section of your local library or bookshop and ask the staff to tell you the most popular authors, I bet there will be just a handful writers named, but they will have written hundreds of picture books between them.

Remember, it does not matter the age range of children that you decide to write for, all that matters is that the children can relate to the hero/heroine, that you keep the words simple and repeat key words.

Happy Scribing!


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