Friday, February 19, 2010

Read and then read some more

Today I'm working on reading the 27 entries to a writer's contest I am judging. It is a children's category, short for short stories and picture book manuscripts.

I don't have a problem helping beginning writer's, I enjoy it. But I've noticed many times when I'm judging a children's writers category, especially for the younger ages or short pieces, it seems as if the writers haven't read a children's story in decades or even at all. Times change, kids change, editor's needs and wants change.

When I'm reading, it's almost always kid's stuff. I do it for research and such, but also because I just plain enjoy a great kid's story or book.

My big advice for anyone wanting to get into writing for children, or they have been writing with no success, if you don't read a lot of kid's stuff, it's going to be difficult to know what a kid and editor is looking for these days. Especially reading in the area and age you are writing for. When I sold my 6 book chapter book series last year, I'd read lots of chapter books, but more novels than anything. I spent weeks reading stacks and stacks of chapter books to get the feel and see how series began and kept going.

By the time I sat down to write, the feel of a chapter book was in my head and it felt comfortable to write these stories. I already had planned my character's personalities and wants and my storylines for each book, so with my head full of the rhythm of a chapter book, I went to work and made my deadlines and had a great time doing it.

So, if you want to write fantasy. Read it. If you want to write picture books for the very young age, read them out the wazoo. And then read other things as well.

End of sermon.


Cerelle said...

Such great advice! There may be some geniuses out there whose originality outstrips convention. And maybe a lucky handful of those can publish successfully without studying what's gone before. But I believe those are the exceptions that prove the rule. Most of us had better make darn sure we're familiar with the kinds of books that are being published (and purchased) today.

Deborah J. Lightfoot said...

The sad fact is that some beginning writers enter the Children's category in writing contests because they think it's EASY to write for children and they can just dash something off in 10 minutes that they're sure will utterly delight any child. That's like thinking it's EASY to become a pediatrician.

Yaya' s Changing World said...

You're right, Kathryn. Part of the research of being a children's writer is knowing what children like. And how is that possible, without reading what they read?

Thanks for all your inspiring words.

Yaya's Changing World