Writing for younger readers, by Elizabeth Galloway
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
― Dr Seuss
How do you write for children just setting out on their reading adventure? Boys and girls aged 5–7 will have a wide range of ability, but in general are making the transition from reading with an adult to becoming an independent reader.
If you’re writing commercial children’s fiction for this age bracket, you may find these guidelines helpful:
Perspective: Tell your story from your main character’s point of view. This means that readers can only see and hear what your character can see or hear. Sticking to one point of view means the reader is closely engaged with the character’s experience – and should find it easier to become absorbed in the story.
Length: Avoid long chapters, long sentences and long paragraphs. Imagine your words in an actual book – your paragraph may not look long on screen, but in a book would it fill more than a page?
Vocabulary: If you want to use a word that will be unfamiliar to most readers, either put it in context so they can work out the meaning, or weave an explanation into the text.
Punctuation: Use dashes instead of colons or semi-colons, and commas to break up clauses. Your punctuation should help readers navigate through sentences.
Variety: Has your story got a big chunk of description or a long stretch of dialogue? Mix up description, dialogue and action to keep the reader absorbed.
Stumbling blocks: If in doubt, ask yourself: “Will this prevent a 5-7 year old from following the story?” If the answer’s yes, change it.
If your story will be stronger by ignoring one or all of these guidelines – then discard them immediately. When it comes to writing fiction, there is nothing as straightforward as rules.
“Sure, it’s simple, writing for kids. Just as simple as bringing them up.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin