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How does writing for children differ from writing for adults?

The short answer is not very much! People think that writing for children is going to be easier than writing for adults. But they’re wrong; writing for children is just as challenging. In fact, it’s more so because not only do you have to include all the same elements as you would in a book for adults, you also need to write it in a form that’s suitable for children. It’s not an easy job, but one that is hugely satisfying when you get it right!

Different Book Formats

One of the main challenges of writing for children is making sure you use the correct format of book for the correct age. For example, younger children will usually have picture books with very few words in them. Then, as you work your way up through the age groups, the number of words increases until you reach novel-length books for teenagers.

Ages of Characters

The ages of the characters in the stories should roughly match the age of the readers. Although, some writers say that children like to read about a character who is just a little older than they are. This also ensures that the dialogue used by the characters, the feelings they have and the troubles they experience are realistic.

Don’t let Adults Save the day

Wouldn’t it be a real letdown if the problems encountered by the protagonist throughout the story are simply resolved in the end by an adult. The solution can include the help of adults, but the real heros of the story should be the children. The story should be empowering, showing children that they can resolve the conflict for themselves.

Don’t be Obviously Didactic!

Children’s books are meant to entertain, engage and enthral! You want the kids to love reading, not feel like they are being taught a lesson. So, any lessons you want to include should be revealed naturally in the dialogue and conflict in the story, not spelt-out and forced down the children’s throats. Remember, first and foremost, your job is to write a great story.

Concise and Precise

You do not have the luxury of being able to take ages and pages to get to the good bit of the story.You’ll have lost the attention of the child long before an adult would give up if the story is slow or overly-long. So, it’s vital that you are concise and precise in your writing style.

Don’t Talk Down or Patronise

You wouldn’t do it to adults so why would you do it to children? You shouldn’t underestimate the abilitiy of children to learn new words, phrases and ideas. In fact, books are a great way to do all three, so don’t waste the opportunity. Creating strong, visual images that make the meaning of the word obvious from the context is a great way of helping children to learn.

Make Sure There’s a Plot

It is a big mistake to assume that because you are writing for children you don’t need to write a good story. They love a good opening, middle and ending in the same way that any adult does. No-one wants to read a story that makes no sense and leads nowhere!

Tackle Grown up Subjects

Don’t be afraid to tackle what seem like grown up issues, such as death, divorce, violence and so on. Children often get embroiled in adult problems that they know little about. Books can help them understand how to make sense of what’s happening and open the door for parents to answer questions.

Stick to the advice given above and you’ll have the makings of a great children’s story on your hands.

If you want to develop your writing for children then we have a great course to help you do this. Find out more by sending for our free Writing for Children course details with no obligation to buy.


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Lou Carter"After completing the course I began writing as much as I could and in 2014 I was finally signed by my agent and within two months I had a contract with Bloomsbury.

To date I have nine picture book contracts all at various stages of publication. There Is No Dragon In This Story (Bloomsbury) and Pirate Stew (Orchard) both published last summer and Oscar The Hungry Unicorn (Orchard) is due to be released on Sept 20th 2018. "

Lou Carter


Institute of Training and Occupational Learning

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