Sunday, 2 December 2012

Writing for children is hard....

The joy of reading
Writing for children is hard and don't let anyone tell you anything else. Many years ago I was convinced to do the MA in Writing for Children because 'if you can write for children you can write for anyone.' And this is actually something I believe to a certain extent, partly because. as I said above, it is hard to write for children and get it right.  But how many times am I asked: 'When are you going to write a proper book?' (meaning an adult book) Because of course the books our children read are not real, they not proper, not worthwhile. Yet these are the same books than can create the most wonderful memories. Allow children to escape into their own worlds and form their minds.

The people that I know that write for children do so because they are driven, then can't not write. They love what they do. They are also fully aware they are unlikely to make millions at it. Though if I had a pound for everytime someone said to me 'Oh you're going to be the next JK are you?' I might just be. But you can't be the next JK Rowling because there is only one JK. We are all totally different, we approach writing differently and write different stories. Who knows what the next big thing will be? I know a few publishers who would pay a huge amount to have that insight however. What we need to keep doing is writing the best stories we can to the best of our ability. Writing is a craft and something that can be honed, the more you write and the more you read the better you will become.

The other little gem is: 'I'm going to write a children's books when I have time, it must be so easy....' Well actually, as we already know, it is not. You have to contemplate your audience. Think about the language you are going to use and consider whether your story is age appropriate. And that's just the beginning...

I am lucky I am a lecturer in creative writing so am surrounded by like minded people. I have spent the whole weekend writing feedback on draft assignments for all my students, giving advice on how to make their piece better before they submit and marking assignments. We workshop it in groups and they have numerous chances to polish that piece of work. That is fine when you are at university, however, when you are writing on your own or away from this hothouse situation that sort of support is not always available. You can get a lot of encouragement and good advice from critiquing groups and I heartily recommend being part of one of those.

However, there is nothing like working with an editor and a professional. On that basis I am doubly lucky as since the end of my PhD I have been working with an editor. I cannot tell you what sort of a difference that makes to your writing. It helps you lift the writing off the page so the story can become one of those ones that just might stay with a child forever...she says hopefully!!

This is a fabulous way to work and now there is an opportunity for you to do that too. Imogen Cooper of The Chicken House has set up The Golden Egg Academy - check out the website. I am lucky enough to also be involved in this. Our latest news is that Beverley Birch will be working with us too.  There is to be an official launch in January, at which point I will give you lots more information. It is a very exciting project and one that I am thrilled to be involved in.

The important thing is, it doesn't matter how hard writing for children is, we will still keep doing it because then we can have moments like the photo above where I am sharing a book with my gorgeous grandson. Something we do on a regular basis.

Now this is Karine Polwart in concert on the 30th November. It is not the greatest recording but I love it because of the emotion behind it. She is singing the song 'Salters Road' directly to a member of the audience for whose mother she wrote the song. That is what being creative is all about, it is about connections and emotions. Enjoy!


  1. heh when i started, i did think it would be easy. but now ... respect to anyone who attempts children's books! it sure ain't.

  2. Easy? Right. And which part would that be? And, oh yes, the old are you going to be the next JK Rowling joke. At least we all appreciate how hard writing for children is and how very valuable it is too.

  3. Isn't it the editing which is hard to do, and that's why we all long to work with a talented editor?

    1. Very true Lesley. I always aim to have the best thing possible to show to an editor so I find the writing bit can be just as painful as the editing process. But having a talented editor to work with means you learn so much that can be taken forward always.