Monday, 8 February 2010

Writing a children's book? How about a checklist?


They have kindly reproduced the useful handout Little, Brown editors distribute at conferences and which, as they suggest, every writer should tack to his or her wall.


1. Child or child surrogate (animal) is the hero/heroine.

2. Author uses engaging, lively language with distinctive dialogue.

3. Author is not condescending or cloying, and is careful about using stereotypes.

4. Characters seem real, complex, dimensional, and show growth.

5. Author/Artist creates a completely believable and interesting world for the story’s characters to inhabit.

6. Possesses an economy of language and a coherent structure

7. Includes details that appeal to a child’s sensibilities

8. Story has clever twists and/or connections that make the reader say, “A-ha!”

9. Isn’t overly predictable (although for some picture books, predictability can work)

10. Makes a point without being overly didactic or preachy

11. Illustrations (if applicable) expand in some way on the words of the story

12. Story/art is compelling and makes reader want to turn the page to see what happens

13. Has a clear climax, point of tension that is resolved in a satisfying way

14. Author takes reader on a journey; opens up new world and ideas to the reader

15. Story moves and/or entertains; makes reader laugh, cry, and/or think. This satisfying feeling should linger with the reader after the book is over.

16. On repeated readings the book offers fresh revelations or details that may not have been caught the first time through

17. Story gives enjoyment to the child and the inner child.

18. Author is not afraid to be daring and takes risks—such as being willing to portray unlikeable characters or fantastical situations, take on controversial subjects, etc.

19. Author has a clear, fresh, and interesting point of view on his/her subject.

20. Be particularly careful about following any current trends; ideally the story should have some lasting value beyond mere trends.

The Upstart Crow Literary website also has a great Writers Toolbox section which includes;

13 Ways to Kick-start a Wimpy Plot (coming in 2010!)
A Bookshelf for Writers & Editors 

THANK YOU UPSTART CROW LITERARY for providing this information.



Sandra Patterson said...

Hi Tracy, just a quick note to let you know I've nominated you for an award on my blog.

N. P. Jensen said...

I like the list because it's a mix of points specific to children's books and points general to all fiction. It's interesting to note which of your ideas do and which don't apply to fiction for grownups - #3, e.g., stereotypes can be used to the hilt in satire, but would rarely be appropriate for younger readers. Points 9 and 16, on the other hand, apply to almost any kind of fiction.

I can't remember any children stories which don't adhere to most of these rules. I'm sure I read some, but that's the point ... they weren't memorable! If I were really adventurous, I would probably try to write a children's story obeying rules 2 thru 16, just to see if I could get kids interested in a story with no major child or animal characters.

N. P. Jensen said...

Uhh, I meant rules 2 through 20.

Nicky S (Absolute Vanilla) said...

That's a briliant list - definitely worthy of being printed out and tacked to the wall! Thanks for sharing.

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