Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Writing for Children by Linda Strachan

This is a slightly unusual review from me as it is more a commentary and opinion from an aspiring children's author point of view (she says wistfully).

Linda Strachan has hit the spot with her newest: Writing for Children – far from being another involved and complicated “how to” book, this one tells it like it is. The chapters are short and concise, giving credible and logical information and pointers, chief among these being:

1. Know your audience
2. Know your market
3. Know your agent
4. Know your publisher

I list the sections the book is broken into below:

Section 1 – Different Kinds of writing for children

For me, the most revelatory part of Section 1 was the concise breakdown of age-groups and information on writing a series, writing non-fiction and writing for reluctant readers. One of the quotes under the reluctant readers section really woke me up: Reluctant readers: They may be reluctant but they’re not stupid, says Adele Geras. Try and make up for complexity of language etc. by having a very exciting story. If you tell a story from the first person you can make things simpler. Good, simple, logical and clear advice!

Section 2 – A writer’s toolkit

Subjects covered are Ideas, Plot, Character, Dialogue, POV and Revision. Each subject covers interesting information which is interspersed with quotes from children’s authors. A fantastic quote by Vivian French reads: Characters, plots, descriptions, etc. are all important – but they’re worth nothing at all without feeling and emotion.

Section 3 – Submission to an publisher or an agent

How to prepare your manuscript and Where and How to send your work is covered in this section. To be honest, I would say this is the section you have to be the most realistic about. There are some very good pointers here and some clear direction and advice. In fact, if you are an aspiring author, either for children / adult, this is probably the most important section you have to read – in any “how to” book. You have to make a concerted effort to find out who the agents are who represent authors whose work is similar to your own, and the same applies when looking at which publishers to approach. Find out in which format they are keen to receive their submissions etc.

Section 4 – Now you are published

The one section deals with the fact and fiction of being a published author – which any aspiring author should take heed of, no matter how far along your MS is. It further explains what you can expect from your agent and publisher, how to deal with school talks and author events and importantly, it lifts the lid on money matters – who understands the vague term “royalties” in real life? I love the term personally and secretly think all my favourite authors get oodles of royalties at least once a month. Reality is much harsher and it is a bit of a wake-up call.

Section 5 – Useful information

A plethora of useful information to be found – mainly aimed at the UK market which makes a nice change. There is a glossary of terms, for example: Impression: This is when a book is reprinted – more copies are printed with no changes. Who outside of the business knew!? It lists a variety of organisations and associations for writers in the UK along with writing courses and literary consultancies.

Overall, I would highly recommend Writing for Children by Linda Strachan for its concise information and the clever way she uses a nice varied selection of author quotes to expand on her advice, giving further insight into her explanations. There are many very quotable quotes and I’ve actually printed a few off for myself at home. It helps keep the mind focused. There are a few exercises in the book to follow, during Section 2, but I found these interesting to think about, as opposed to doing them.

I think that, alongside the Children’s Writers & Artists’ Yearbook, this is a must for any aspiring children’s author. It won’t tell you how to create the next Harry Potter, but it will tell you how to work on your own writing to make it the best it can be – it gives valuable pointers and instead of being the chummy “how to” book which almost assures you of success, Writing for Children has you realise that it is hard work but that it is fun. And, that if your hard work pays off, you get to have even more fun, being a published author in probably one of the only markets still growing in these harsh times.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Even children has their own preference in children books. Some wants it more of futuristic some want it in a fantasy mood or setting.

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