Advice to a Beginner

Writing for Kids? It’s easy, right? Recently, I’ve talked to several beginners and here’s some of the most common advice I give.

Main Character to Relate to and Identify With

What age are you writing for? Adults? Then, you need an adult main character. Teens? Then, you need a teen main character. Elementary age kid? Then you need. . . In other words, your audience needs a main character they can relate to and identify with.

Yes, I know. Fairy tales are about old dudes like Rumpelstiltskin. And Pooh Bear is, well, a bear. Yes, there will be an odd book about a grandparent as a main character. But those are harder to pull off and best left till later in your career. Create a main character a bit older than your audience. It can be an animal–which is generally a kid in animal clothing. But any time you move far off from your audience’s age and general characteristics, you will have to work harder to make the audience care.

Basic Writing Skills

Yes, there are basic writing skills and you need to master these. They include sentence structures and punctuation. For this, I suggest you work through The Art of Styling Sentences. It’s a simple, fun way to review basic writing.

Basic Fiction Skills

Ah, but after you brush up your basic writing skills, you need to learn some basic fiction techniques. Do you know how to punctuate dialogue correctly? Do you know how to Show-Don’t-Tell a story? Do you understand that fiction is about conflict, that you can’t create a plot which has no obstacles and simple obstacles makes for a simple, but boring plot?

I always recommend two basic texts for writing fiction:

If you study these two books on fiction writing, you’ll be far ahead of the gang.

Ask for and accept help!

Advice from the Sage One
I’ve read that a career in writing often comes with an apprenticeship of twenty years. Sigh. Learning to write great fiction can take time. But there are many people willing to give help. (No–I can’t read your story; I can and do read stories from those I know personally–as time allows.) There are many conferences, retreats, classes which can help. I strongly recommend you ask for help. And then, take the advice, practice, try it out. You can always go back to the original version, but you should try doing what they ask. If you don’t understand something–ask! Please. Ask! I can’t answer questions you don’t ask. I can cut five years off your learning curve–if you let me.

Worry about the words, not the art.

Finally, if you are writing a picture book, worry not about the art. Worry only that your words soar.
The publisher, editor and art director will match you with a fantastic illustrator. You don’t have to find an artist, indeed, it will cut your chances of a sale in half if you do. They WANT to and EXPECT to contract an illustrator for a picture book. Worry about the words. That’s your job.

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