|A sketch for an upcoming story|
about a boy whose gravity stopped
working one morning.
Courtesy Sharon Burford Cartoons.
On that thought, Don't skimp on proof reading and editing. Max was reading a book recently that contained so many little errors in grammar and sentence structure that even he was annoyed. He didn't finish the book. I wanted to go through the text with a red pen. Max said, "You know, this would make a great film. It's got all the right stuff, dragons, battles, a brave princess." Except for good writing.
Read a LOT. Read aloud, to yourself, to children of all ages; read fiction, non-fiction, browse children's magazines and the kids' and teens' sections at the library.
When you're not reading, write! Write every day. Who was it that said you need 10,000 hours of practice to become a master of your craft? I believe it!
Use illustrations and sketches, even if you think you may not need them for the final product. They can help you to understand where you are going. Mind maps are useful too.
Use short sentences. If you read the best-loved works of writers like Roald Dahl and pay attention to the sentence structure, you will be amazed by just how short their sentences are, and how effective:
'Sophie couldn't sleep.
A brilliant moonbeam was slanting through a gap in the curtains. It was shining right on to her pillow.' - from The BFG by Roald Dahl.
Don't preach or talk down to them in your writing style. I learned this lesson really well, lecturing at-risk teenagers in Trinidad. Their eyes glaze over the minute you tell them what to do. But use humour, suggestion, ask questions, assume they are intelligent... and you can keep their interest long enough to get your point across.
Use a few long words. You might be surprised by how many kids will understand them. If in doubt, phone up an eight year old. Ask them what the word means. If they don't know, make sure the meaning is conveyed in the writing. But you may be surprised! And they will love that you respect them enough to challenge them.
Rhyming, rhythm and alliteration are fun, even in non-fiction. Explore!
And lastly: In all good children's fiction, the bad guy comes to a sticky end, and little kids are never sorry for him.
Nan is a regular contributor to Aquila Magazine, and has read and told countless bedtime stories, some of the best of which were made up on the spot.
Nan absolutely loves talking about herself in the third person, and it is possibly the largest contributing factor to her desire to become an author.