Alongside my series of posts on how authors get ideas I’ve decided to write up my own, slightly anarchic take on writing for children. This series of tips and thoughts on the subject will be entirely random. It’s intended for both wannabe and more established authors and I hope that it will spark both ideas and debate. I don’t pretend to be any kind of guru on the subject but what I do know may just give you the kick you need on a bad day.
With that in mind, let’s begin with attitude. It takes a lot of it to make it as a writer but what really separates the published from the slush pile is the ability to adopt someone else’s – in this case, a child’s. And I don’t mean stroppy adolescent stomping (although that has a place when used judiciously). I’m referring to that sense of possibility that all children are born with and some sadly lose too early. To write successfully for children, you need to look at the world with those same fresh eyes. Note I haven’t used the word ‘wonder’ – that’s because it’s become somewhat hackneyed in this context and it might encourage you to sprinkle too much stardust on your work.
Children may have a fresh perspective on the world but that does not necessarily make them sentimental or saccharine in their views. If you ever want a ruthlessly honest opinion on something, just ask a child. They do not filter and most have not yet learned to prevaricate. They tell it like it is and it is this emotional honesty I would urge you to strive for rather than an adult take on what is mistakenly labelled ‘innocence.’ Children may be innocent in one sense but they are also marvellously knowing. Very little escapes them and their response to adversity is often humbling. Try testing a what-if scenario through a child’s eyes – ask a real one if possible. What you discover may just provide the basis for a truly original plot that grips young minds as opposed to a story told from an adult perspective.
One thing: please, please don’t send me your synopsis or manuscript. That’s what agents are for and receiving other people’s work puts authors in a very difficult ethical position.