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Books About Writing

Scroll down for some questions about writing and writing tips….

Writing for Children

A writing handbook –

for aspiring and newly published  writers

Many people want to write for children but are often unaware of the wide variety of markets to choose from or how to find the right publisher for their idea. Aimed at both established and aspiring writers, this book aims to offer advice on the whole publishing process from initial idea through to final publication and beyond.

All the key areas of children’s publishing are covered: picture books, fiction, poetry, plays, non fiction, educational books, books for reluctant readers. There will also be useful advice for the newly published on publicity, setting up a website, tax and accounting, and handling school/library author visits.
Writing for Children – A & C Black 2008. ISBN: 978-0-7136-8774-3

Purchase                                   (UK) Order from Amazon.co.uk

Some reviews for Writing for Children

‘Linda Strachan has put together an eminently sensible guide for those who want to break into the world of children’s books. It is warmly and accessibly written, using examples from the author’s own considerable experience, together with snippets of advice and comment from many other writers.’

‘I’m going to recommend this book to all wannabe children’s writers “The most important thing is to write well and be true to the story” – you can’t really beat that as a piece of advice. Together with the A & C Black Children’s and Artists’ Yearbook (updated annually) it will be an invaluable resource.’   Amadillo

CHWaAYEARBOOK 2015

This  edition has an article I wrote  about writing for children in a digital age


Writing tips and questions

Here are some general tips and information about writing and getting published from my blog Bookwords

You can also check out my blog posts on ABBA (Awfully Big Blog Adventure)

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 and also on Picturebook Den

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Questions about writing 1#

I often get queries sent through my website about areas of writing and sometimes the reply I send bounces.  I am never sure if this is because they are some kind of inventive spam or just one of these weird things that sometimes happen out there in the ether.

So this post on writing was sparked off by some of questions.  I would welcome the thoughts of other writers, editors and agents out there – because when it comes to specifics about writing a lot of it is a huge grey area with all sorts of different points of view.  After all if it was that simple there would be a list of rules and anyone who followed them would be an instant success.

Here are two quite different questions from Kirsty and Tasnim.

Q1- from Tasnim  –  who I assume doesn’t live in the UK – and wants to write for children between the ages of 8-13 and asks what are the stipulated word limits in the UK?
Tasnim -This is one of those questions that sounds like it should be very easy to answer but its not quite that simple.  Children who are in this age range might want to read very different books.  You may have a very competent reader who will be able to read long fairly complex storylines examples of this are Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy (Northern Lights(or known as The Golden Compass in the US), The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass) or the Harry Potter series.
Other children may be put off by the thought of tackling something as long as those and be happier with much shorter books.
When I was researching for my book Writing for Children I spoke to a number of editors at some of the larger publishers and the consensus was that they were reluctant to suggest word length at all.  They said that books were more ‘author led’.
I think that what they mean is that it is the story, and the way the author tells it, will dictate the length that works for that particular story. As always the story must be as long or as short as it needs to be but I know how confusing that can be if you are starting out.  I suppose it can also depend on whether you are writing for the top or lower end of that age group, and even then books vary so much.
You can have some that are as short as 15-20,000 words and others that are as long as 60,000+ words.
My advice would be write your book and see how long it is and then go to a good bookshop and look at books similar to the one you are writing.

Observe  the variations in length and which publishers are publishing that kind of story.  If it looks like your story is far too long you may want to have a second look and see if your story is really as well written as you can make it. It needs to interest the reader from start to finish, and make sure you haven’t made it longer than it needs to be.  Don’t waffle to make it longer. Kids hate that.

Q2- from Kirsty  – Who says she is good at writing stories but wanted to know how to make her writing more interesting.
Kirsty –  If you want to make your stories more interesting there are a few things you need to think about.   The beginning of your story should make the person reading it desperate to keep reading.  You know, the kind of story that makes you beg for a few more minutes before you have to turn off the light and go to sleep.
Start your story with something happening and don’t have a long drawn out beginning.   Your characters could be running away from something, or having an argument or a fight.  If you begin with your main character being worried about something that’s going to happen, or something that they have done; that can make you want to read on.  But don’t tell everything at once. Give little clues so that the person reading it wants to discover what is wrong, or what it is they did.
When I am writing I like to think of it like a film running in my head as I write. If I can imagine it happening, and if I know my characters well enough, I get so wrapped up in the story that I don’t want to stop until it is finished.
Sometimes when I start to write I don’t know how the story will end but that doesn’t matter too much.  Although I do like to stop after a bit and think about what the end of the story might be.  Even then I often don’t quite know how I am going to get my characters to the end I have planned.
But for me, that is the fun of writing.

2 comments:

Julie P said…
Thanks, Linda, for such an informative, useful and interesting post. Having only written short stories, poems and articles before, I embarked on NaNoWriMo this year and I am now 67,000 words into my 1st novel which I have aimed at the 9-13 year old market. I had no idea what or who I was going to write about until a week before I started and I was worried about how long it should be. Bit your info above has helped.  Many thanks  Julie xx
Hi Julie
Well done. It is often really difficult to get down to writing something like a novel when you have been writing short pieces for a while.
I love it when I get to the end of the first draft of a story because then there is something to work with, the fine tuning and editing is often as fascinating as working out the plot. Except for the times when you look at a bit of writing you are really proud of and realise that it just has to go – then you have to ‘murder your darlings’ and that can be hard.

Questions about writing #2 – Writing for ‘children’

This question came from  Jacqueline who is writing a ‘children’s story’ set in space. (If you read this, Jacqueline, please email me again – I couldn’t reply because the email address was incorrect)

I would like some advice on writing. My latest children's story is a 3 chapters
short story which I would love to get published.
One thing that always worries me when someone says they have written a ‘children’s story’ is that this is such a ‘catch all’ that it tells me almost nothing.  The first question that comes to mind is who is this story for?  Children require different books at different ages  and the books they want are quite different in concept.  For example –

A space story could be a picture book perhaps something like Stella to Earth by Simon Puttock
or Simon Bartram’s stories about Bob (the man on the moon) such as Bob and the Disappearing Moon

For older children a short novel  is more their kind of book – a space adventure story like Theresa Breslin’s Alien Force.

So if you are thinking of writing for children, or have written a book or a short story for ‘children’ please go back and think about who it is for and what kind of book that child will be wanting to read or have read to them.  See which publishers publish which kind of books – so that you are informed about the market.

If you want to get your story published you do need to know what kind of books are being published NOW for children today. Don’t rely on what you might remember about when you were a child but go to the bookshops and look at the books. Read them and see how long they are, if there are pictures, and the way the story is told. Find out where your story fits in generally.

After that you may have to change your ideas or the way your story is told and don’t mistake a shorter book or a picture book for being one that is easier to write. Usually the fewer words there are, the harder you have to work to get it right.

If you do all these things there is still no guarantee that you will be published, no one has the right to expect a publisher to put out money to publish and promote a book unless they believe it will sell enough to make more than it cost them – that is only common sense!

My best advice is  – be professional, get to know the market and make it the very best you can.