I would call this book Writing for children and Teenagers and just about anyone.
When you browse through this book as a book reviewer should, you come across the 10 commandments for writers somewhere at the end. Rings of a blog post. In fact, this entire book feels like reading a blog on writing. Although it is dedicated to writing for the juvenile audience, a large part of the book is about the process of writing in general.
The examples Lee Wyndham uses are a far, far cry from contemporary children’s writing. Does Black Beauty ring a bell or Heidi? (though I must say I love Heidi). You would probably need a revised edition with Potterama to enlighten you about writing for young children and young adults today.
Lyndham is in control of her subject (strangely I couldn’t find her in a Wiki entry). She is the author of nearly 50 books, 200 short stories, many articles in magazines. She has taught writing for children and teenagers. She writes from another day and age-the age of typewriter ribbons and carbon paper but as you go through the book you realize that what an author needs is not really intelligent software like Scrivener.
You need an organized mind.
And we are talking about a seriously organized writer here.
This is a writer who believes in The Work Book. One way of completing work is setting out your own deadlines (you can note down when you start a work and when you finish). Think Chapter, she says. She prophetically mentions the 2000 words per day challenge.
Isn’t that what NaNoWrimo is about? Getting the words on the page and being organized on a daily basis. You go for work every day, you meet targets every day, you walk the dog every day, then why not write 2000 words a day?
She makes the challenge much easier by focusing on the chapter. Writing twenty chapters is easier than forging an excruciating 50,000 words.
Writing for children and teenagers
If you like guidelines, here are some good ones:
- One rule I think works is Don’t write Down. Never underestimate your young audience. If you don’t want to underestimate them, you must know them. How much do you know about children? Do you spend time with them or read a bit of child psychology?
- Being age-specific when you write is also important. So what you write for a six year old will not work for a 13 year old. A 13 year old needs more drama and action while an older teen would need a stronger plot, sub plots and characterization. A toddler can only handle a single plot.
- Even vocabulary matters. Use vocabulary that fits into a prescribed word list, especially for younger children.
- Sensory feelings are very important in a children’s book as children are new to the world and feel everything with a freshness that we can not even remember.
- Themes are relevant- though this book is outdated in many ways, its relevance lies in the fact that it throws up many questions. What kind of ideas would work today? What do kids relate to in different parts of the world? The editor never knows what will work until she sees it.
- Do you need to be an illustrator to write a children’s book? Well, no and it would be prudent not to send your amateur art work to accompany your story as that could actually spoil the chances of your story getting accepted.
Wyndham has thought things through- I wondered what she would do if she had access to the technology we have today. Every idea is noted. Every characterization is jotted down. The world is a potential story minefield and she believes in using everything.
Have you ever wondered about how much you give away while doing social media? How little you store? Writers have to hold on to so much if they must produce anything remotely plot-worthy.
Hold on to this thought until we revisit this book with a Plot Recipe in Part 2 of this review.