"It is the magic of fiction that allows the young reader to 'escape' from ordinary day-to-day doings and to live more fully in a heightened, highlighted version of life, with adventure possible at every turn of the page"
—Lee Wyndham, Author
—Lee Wyndham, Author
Every time I think everything has been said about writing, something new pops up. I don’t mind admitting I’m wrong. Heck, I think that’s one reason why I love writing for children and teens, but knowing the nuts and bolts is important before you sit down to write, especially for the children and YA market.
Writing for children and teens can be a rewarding experience—both personally and professionally. The insight you gain as a writer is un-measureable. It also means opening yourself to a child’s point of view and rediscovering what it feels like to learn something new, to experience something for the first time, to let your imagination run wild. However, children’s writing isn’t all fun and games. In many respects, it is more difficult than writing for adults because the writer has so much less in common with the reader. Or so we think, and just because your readers will be children/teens doesn’t mean you can pay any less attention to the basics.
In fact, bright, curious young readers demand realistic, compelling characters and exciting plots just as much—if not more so—than their adult counterparts.
If you are thinking of taking up writing for children and teens, first be warned it is not an easy way to make money. If you’re in the game for money…then forget about writing in this genre. True, there are always stories of beginning writers (J.K. Rowling, Brandon Mull, Stephanie Myers) who will ship out a children’s story and sell it to a publisher on the first or second try, and wind up with a very successful book. But for the rest of us…entering this profession takes years of practice, self-education (I highly stress this part) and much frustration. And that’s only the beginning.
So here is my road map for those of you who want to start down this journey. The suggest material comes from my own research as I walked down this path and now reflect back on my own personal expertise/experiences. Much of the information will also apply to other areas of writing as well. I hope this road map will help your writing and personal growth.
Road Map to Becoming a Children/YA Author:
1) Buy books on the subject. There are many books on writing and many of them focus on different genres such as picture books, chapter books and YA novels. Some even focus on techniques for writing for young readers. You can never have too many of these books and even a few not specific to your genre but to writing in general. Here is the list of books I first started off with:
a) The Business of Writing for Children by Aaron Shepard
b) You Can Write Children’s Books by Tracey E. Dils
c) Picture Writing: A New Approach to Writing for Kids and Teens by Anastasia Suen
d) From Inspiration to Publication: How to Succeed as a Children’s Writers by the Institute of Children’s Literature
e) The Story Factor by Annette Simmons
f) Creating Plot by J. Madison Davis
2) Signing up for writing workshops/ecourses. To hone your writing, you need to take writing courses at a local college, writers group/conference and/or online. I cannot stress the importance of these workshops. Some will teach you new techniques while others will share information you may not have known or heard about. Here is my list of places where you can take writing courses:
a) The Institute of Children’s Literature (I did take their basic course)
b) The Muse Online Conference (This is free and in the month of October)
c) Writer’s Digest (They offer different ecourses throughout the year. Even though I have not taken one, many of my fellow writers have really enjoyed their courses.)
d) Local colleges or continuing education workshops offered by your city or local college campus. (I teach for our continuing ed program through Dixie State College and my students here really enjoyed what I have shared with them. This is a cost effective way to learn a lot in a short period of time.)
e) SFC Publishing online workshops (The SFC team has put together some online workshops to help those wanting or already writing for children and teens. We truly want to help you hone your skills.)
f) The Working Writers Coach (Another program I haven’t taken, but know many who how have and say it was one of the best things they have done for their writing.)
You can also do a Google search for many other online workshops on writing. But before you sign up for any of them…first ask fellow writing buddies if they have heard about it. You don’t want to spend lots of money on a program that isn’t right for you.
3) Join a critique group. I’m sure you have heard this one repeatedly. There is a reason for this…it works. Most critique groups have new and advanced writers meeting together, sharing their experiences and knowledge. Critique groups are not only good to help hone your writing, but also to make connections with fellow writers who may one day help you see your book in print.
4) Sign up for writing newsletters and magazines. Make sure you don’t overdo it. You want to make sure you’re not just receiving them and not reading them. What good is it if you don’t read the articles within?
5) Join a local and/or online writing group. There are many writing organizations out there for writers. I’m a member of a few and have been a member of others in the past. These groups are wonderful not only to help you hone your writing, but also in sharing publication information, contract advice, etc. The connections are valuable and will pay off down the road. Here are a few groups I suggest:
a) The CBI Clubhouse (Fightin’ Bookworms) http://cbiclubhouse.com/
b) League of Utah Writers (they have local chapters throughout Utah) http://www.luwriters.org/ch_heritage.html
c) WriteOnOnc http://writeoncon.com/
d) Savvy Authors http://www.savvyauthors.com/vb/benefits.php
e) Verla Kay’s Writing Board http://www.verlakay.com/boards/index.php
f) Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators http://www.scbwi.org/
g) MuseIt Up Club http://museitupclub.tripod.com/
Plus check out Facebook, Yahoo Groups and Google for more online groups and writing resources.
VS Grenier is an award-winning author and editor who learned how to hone her writing skills at the Institute of Children’s Literature, and has membership in the Society of Children’s Book Writer’s and Illustrators (SCBWI), the National Association of Professional Women (NAPW), the League of Utah Writers (HWG chapter), and Musing Our Children. Her works include Babysitting SugarPaw, the Best of Stories for Children Magazine Volume 1 anthology and over 30 short stories, articles, and crafts for children along with newsletter articles for writers.
She is the Founder & Owner of Stories for Children Publishing LLC, and also is chief editor for Halo Publishing; in addition, to running her own editorial and critique services. Learn more about her at http://vsgrenier.com