Saturday, 7 May 2011

How to get started in Writing for Children

Author: Gareth Hoyle

Writing for children can be a genuinely magical experience, because it’s as rewarding for you as it will be for the children who will end up reading or listening to your words. That’s the good news. The bad news is that getting taken on by a major publisher is as tough now as it’s ever been, so you need to set your sights high from the off.
Writing for Children: Getting Started
Let's assume you start with passion, an idea, and nothing else. What should you do next?

The first thing is to build your skills. 'How to Write' books can offer a useful start, but they can't give you feedback and advice on your own work. For most people then, a Writing For Children course will probably the best first step. A good course will always be taught by a professional, published children's author, and ideally one with a strong knowledge of the current publishing market.

You should also look for a course (such as those run by the Writers' Workshop) that offer intensive interaction with your tutor, and real feedback on any homework assignments.

Any decent Writing for Children course will cover all the basics: getting your idea, testing the market, developing a plot, building characters, working on your writing style, and how to seek publication. You should also develop the skills to pitch your work at the right children's age group.

Writing for Children: Getting Stuck in
The next step is very simple - and very daunting. You need to start writing your book. Just sit down and do it.

It helps to realise that what you write at this stage probably isn't going to be terribly good. Doesn't matter. You only get better by practicing, and that means writing. A lot of writers will want to test their work on their own children. That's definitely a good idea, but do remember that your children probably aren't the most impartial of judges!

Writing for Children: Getting feedback
Some writers will want to complete their book before getting feedback. Others will want to seek advice at a halfway point or even earlier. It doesn't matter which way you choose to approach this, but do make sure you get professional written feedback on your work, as soon as you're ready for it. That pro advice will tell you what is working well in your writing, but it'll also highlight the things that aren't yet right and which need to be addressed.

You should get detailed feedback from a professional children's author who is very familiar in working with with first time writing. The Writers' Workshop (naturally) has an excellent range of feedback services for you to choose from.

Writing for Children: Getting an agent
Once you have completed your book, and taken advice on it, and re-edited it, and if necessary taken more advice and re-re-edited it (!), you are probably ready to seek a literary agent.

You almost certainly do need an agent to help secure a publisher for you, simply because most children's publishers won't accept writing from any other route. The Writers' Workshop can help secure a literary agent - or browse for more articles from us on this crucial step.

By Harry Bingham, of the Writers' Workshop. Harry is a best-selling, prize short-listed author of novels and non-fiction, including the category-leading book on Getting Published. The Writers' Workshop offers a range of  Writing for Children  courses, and also offers professional feedback and advice for all those  writing for children . We look forward to helping.

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