Writing for Children – Know Your Target Age Group
Now it may seem fairly obvious that if you’re writing a book for children you will at least know what age group you’re writing for. Right?
Wrong? And I should know. I’m probably the worst culprit. Let me explain.
The number of times I’ve been sitting, musing, amazing how often that is these days, and out of nowhere comes this name, or character or idea or scene or…you get the picture. And then I pick up a pen and begin scribbling ideas down. Pretty soon there’s some kind of plot developing, and of course we need some kind of protagonist, then a couple of whacky characters that we can have fun with, and maybe an older adult figure to add some kind of reality to the whole thing……and bingo, we’re in business.
Okay, let’s make something up on the spot to try and illustrate what I’m talking about. Er….Freeman the Incredible Matchbox. (I did say ‘ridiculous’ didn’t I?) Actually, I rather like the sound of that.
Okay, by this time I’m very much into it. I love the name, Freeman, and the fact that he’s a matchbox gets me all excited with possibilities for gags about meeting other matchboxes, homeless matches, spent matches down on their luck……and I think you can see already the problems we’re causing, although I have to admit it’s great fun and I love creating something like this.
It’s at this point, of course, once I’ve jotted all the ideas down, I should have a ‘reality check’. I mean, who is this story aimed at?
But then the creative writer in me says “Who cares, let’s just go with it and see what happens and write something funny, and entertaining, and eventually everybody is going to love Freeman and his matchbox adventures”.
But is it a book for children? And how old are these children going to be to get the jokes? And the big question is “Will the children actually ‘read’ this book or will someone have to ‘read it to them’ or is it going to be an audio book? Good questions. I never thought about that when I was having my ‘creative moment’. But of course I should have thought about it.
To prove the point, approach any teacher who works with youngsters and tell them you’ve written a book for children, and I’ll bet their first question will be “What age group is it aimed at?” And that’s because they actually work with children and know what works and what doesn’t ‘for the age group’.
So at some point you have to really research your children’s book market carefully. Read as many books from one particular age group as you can, get a feel for what level we’re working at, the language used. Try another age group, see what works there and how different it is to a group only two years younger. Writing for children is such a very specialised area, yet everybody who has ever picked up a pen or tapped away at a keyboard thinks they can do it.
To sum up, I’m not trying to put anyone off writing for children, far from it, and I’m definitely not trying to stop you being creative and coming up with amazing characters and plots etc, but what I am trying to make you do is be very clear about who your target readership is and how old they are. It’s all down to ‘research’. Get it wrong and your children’s book will end up back in your drawer. Get it right and you could be onto a winner!
And here is a book that will definitely help..available on Amazon and very good value….the Children’s Writers & Artists Yearbook 2013 – packed full of contacts, tips, and advice. You should have one of these if you are serious about writing for children.