Writing for Children Dos & Don’ts

Some DOs and DON’Ts of Writing for Young Children

DO:

Do write from universal themes. Figure out early in your writing process what the theme(s) of your story is. Be able to express each theme in one or two words.

Do hyperbolize. Make characters, places and events bigger or smaller, scarier or funnier, happier or sadder than they are in real life.

Do make your main character a little older than your target audience.

Do focus on places, people and events that are familiar to a young child’s world.

Do appeal to both your readers’ emotions AND physical senses.

Do write tight. Make every single word do double duty. Get rid of words that are not essential to telling your story.

Do use specific people, traits and events. Create specific places, dialogue, mannerisms. Give characters and places names.

Do give your story a definite BEGINNING, MIDDLE and END. Without these three elements what you have written is NOT a story.

Do show how your main character changes because of the events of the story.

If you are creating a concept book focus on ONE concept like numbers, letters, up and down, inside and outside, colors, family members.

DON’T:

Unless you are creating a fable don’t tack a lesson or moral onto the end of your story.

Let the lesson rise to the surface on its own. Let your readers figure that lesson out for themselves.

If you are writing a STORY (not part of a curriculum plan) don’t “teach” or “preach.” Let the story and the characters pierce the reader’s heart with the truth of the lesson.

Don’t let an adult solve the main character’s problem or even help solve it too much.

Don’t use characters who are all-bad, or all-good. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses.

Don’t use stereotypes in characters, plots, situations or dialogue. Throw in unexpected or unusual things and people.

Don’t write to trends. Write YOUR story in YOUR voice and style.

Don’t rely on generalizations like “everyone,” “over there,” “one day,” “one time” or “people.”

Unless you are a professional illustrator don’t try to illustrate your own books.

For personal use only. Please do not copy or distribute. www.JeanMatthewHall.com
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