Okay, so what qualifies me to do this? My juvenile/middle grade eBooks have garnered good reviews and are well-edited due to writer workshops, my writers group, and exhaustive attention to detail. Also, I have a website and you probably don’t. If you care to look at samples you’ll find them at Smashwords and Kindle and most all the other eBook sites.
Myth#1 – It’s easy to write a kid’s book. For me it is. It’s easy to write any piece of unreadable garbage. Everyone wants to be a writer but no one wants to put in the necessary work, lots of work. The genre requires smaller books but the same character development, sharp dialogue, imaging, tension, etc., as adults but in a smaller frame.
Myth#2 -I’ve raised my kids, I’m a parent/teacher therefore qualified to write for kids. Sure, I changed a flat tire last week so now I’ll swap out my engine. Your story, above all else is the vital ingredient. After that it’s how you put your story together.
Myth#3 – Writing for kids is a good way to get rich quick. Unless you wrote a great book and a publisher decided to divert some of Jeff Kinney’s marketing budget to your book–good luck. Publisher’s and agents are closing doors tighter because eBook competition has cut into their sales. Writing for the eBook sites means first of all, no marketing budget. You’ve got to Tweet, Facebook, blog, and pass out business cards and try to get attention via a news release. It’s not easy. Keep your day job. I know author’s who self-publish and sit at tables at community art and craft shows, festivals, farmer’s markets, etc, but they have a hard copy book. I wonder how it would go if I set up a table and sold my Smashwords coupon code to readers?
Myth#4 – Get an illustrator for my picture book manuscript. It’s tough slog getting a traditional publisher to read your book. Remember, this is just step one. Now you’ve thrown in illustrations that may or may not sink your work. Don’t give them any excuse to toss your work into the garbage. Illustrations attract attention, a first look. Are your illustrations good ones? Or will they turn readers away? One interesting tech advancement are eReaders that will display color. I know that submitting simple text for eBooks can be a frustrating process. What an image may do once its processed is anyone’s guess. I’d study this before jumping in.
Myth#5 – I should make my story rhyme. It difficult enough creating an engaging story and now you’re going to try and make it rhyme, too?
#6 – Children’s writing shouldn’t use difficult words. Yes and no. Depending on the age group you’re writing for you should adjust somewhat. Don’t ever use cutesy words. You can always throw in a three or four syllable words here and there in younger readers, but don’t make a habit of it. Running for a dictionary interrupts reading. I think kids are better readers today because they are on the internet which is another reading area. Don’t ‘dumb down’ your writing.
#7 – You should have a moral or teach a lesson. Forget it. Kids already get crapped on from all angles. Books are their escape. Generally, any story you write will have its own morals/lessons/ advice by default. You can put in some of it, but do it subtly and cleverly.
#8 – A children’s story can’t have serious, weighty, or controversial subject matter. Yes, they can. Kids are playing video games where they see death and blood and gore and mayhem. TV and movies have their share as well. Blatant sexuality is in music videos and on websites they surf. But wait, there’s more: death and dying, physical illness and dementia, alternative lifestyles, divorce, and drug use, are already out there in books. Many children are dealing with some of this subject matter . When you write about they may see another way to cope with their issues. I read a YA/Tween book which had so much swearing and crudity I nearly wrote the publisher. The only way this book got published was because the author was an Indian ‘reflecting Northern realities’ and the literati was trying to encourage Indians to write books. It was so bad and the worst piece of crap I’ve ever read. Also, there was no story, just teens hanging out sniffing gas and doing drugs, and beating each other up.
#9 - When in trouble get an adult to bail out my main character. My favorite and worth a rant. Your character must succeed or fail due to their own efforts. Having adults in the story is almost unavoidable, perhaps to provide advice. In Archie’s Gold, I have Lyle Raintree, an Indian ex-con, giving advice to Archie about where the feared Boogie lives, but Lyle doesn’t lead him any further. When your character has a problem, conflict, or obstacle your young readers emphasize with it and realize they too, can work out their real-life problems. This only works out if you write reality stories like I do. You can’t use a magic wand in real life to dispel your issues. It’s too easy for characters in fantasy to get out of their situations with devices of spells and wands and friendly creatures. I tried writing a story with a talking creature and I ended up killing it off because it became so annoying. It did however; taste quite good.
#10 - Children will read almost anything. Not really. The market now is saturated with fantasy. This puts me in the background because I write true grit and reality. My characters get in trouble and have to resolve it on their own. As a writer in the genre you have to compete against rock videos, TV, video games, etc. so many things that are exciting and have also reduced attention spans. Adult readers will tolerate a slow beginning to develop a plot. For the children’s genre you’ve got to jump in feet first, right now. The first few pages must be exciting or at least create great interest.
Over and above everything, write an engaging story. The classic children’s stories endure because of characters and story.