Hello from Crystal Bowman! I have been writing for children for over 20 years. Before writing my first book, I spent 5 years as a preschool teacher and 12 years as a full-time mom. From my twenties to my forties, young children were part of my daily life. I am now in another decade with grandchildren, so I still have little ones in my world. When I teach at writers’ conferences, or when someone wants advice on writing for children, I always remind them that they have to know kids in order to write for them. They need to understand the perspective of young children and live in their world.
Here are seven quick tips on reaching children with your writing and getting into their world:
1. Avoid the use of adult language. Use language a child would use.
Adult language: I think this is going to be a complicated matter.
Kid language: I think this is all mixed up.
Adult language: The cookies mysteriously disappeared.
Kid language: The cookies are gone! Where did they go?
2. Avoid the use of metaphors. Remember that kids are literal.
Adult language: I have butterflies in my stomach.
Kid language: My stomach feels tingly inside.
Adult language: What kind of giants do you face?
Kid language: Do you ever have big problems?
3. Be specific.
Too general: I see a bird outside.
Specific: I see a robin in the tree.
Too general: I feel water on my face.
Specific: I feel a raindrop on my cheek.
4. Master rhythm and rhyme if you want to write in verse.
Awkward: To the park we all did go, and oh how we did love it so.
Natural: We all went to the park to play, and had a happy, sunny day.
Sloppy rhyme: I see some flowers and some bees, buzzing by the apple tree.
Exact rhyme: I see some flowers and some bees, buzzing by the apple trees.
5. Use concrete words rather than abstract.
Abstract: “My lunch is good,” said Jimmy.
Concrete: “My sandwich tastes like peanut butter and jelly,” said Jimmy.
Abstract: God’s word tells about His protection.
Concrete: The Bible says that God watches over us.
6. Use active voice rather than passive.
Passive: There were three bunnies hopping in the grass.
Active: Katie saw three bunnies hopping in the grass.
Passive: Loud sounds were being made by the falling oak tree.
Active: Snap! Crash! Boom! The big oak tree fell down.
7. Write tight. Say what you want to say with a few words as possible.
Wordy: Pam opened her mouth to say that she didn’t like the peas on her plate.
Tight: “I don’t like the peas,” said Pam.
Wordy: If you don’t feel like cleaning your room then you cannot watch cartoons.
Tight: You may watch cartoons after you clean your room.
And the best tip of all is to spend time with children! Get on the floor. Play with them. Read to them. Ask them questions. Have dinner with them and tuck them into bed. If you master the art of writing for children, someday little ones might enjoy reading the books you’ve written.