Writing for young people: It's not child's play

Writing for children is more than just using short words and writing about homework. As well as getting the tone spot on, you also need to know what children want to read about and ensure that your style is like an older sister and not a patronising parent.

How do you know what children want to read? You need to get into their minds, to think of their world and how they spend their time. What trends are sweeping playgrounds? What do they love to do? What are their fears? To do this, you have to speak to children, listen to them and find out what matters most in their lives.

How do you get the tone right? Children know when they’re being patronised or if you’re trying too hard to be ‘down with the kids”. You need to listen to how they speak and then convey that through your writing. Don’t get too obsessed with the current slang – it’ll be out of fashion next week or mean something totally different at the opposite end of the country. Listen to children and use their tone and language. Study children’s books and TV shows, as these are what children are devouring on a daily basis.

How do you know what style children want? Anything that is too long or deals with a boring topic will instantly put a child off. Instead, catch them with a snappy headline, a bite-size feature and lots of facts on their favourite subjects. Children want the writing in their magazines to be easy for them to read, so avoid long words and keep it short and simple.

How do you get your work published? There is a growing children’s magazine market, featuring everything from licensed magazines on one character to teen titles.

The key to getting your work published is to study that magazine to ensure that what you are sending is what they want to see.

It’s pointless sending a 1,000 word romantic story to a pre-teen girls’ magazine that only runs short features and has no fiction. If you send suitable content to a magazine you know, you’re far more likely to get a commission rather than a rejection.

Children want to laugh, to find out secrets, to be entertained and to learn about themselves. If you can do that in a fun way that fits the magazine you are aiming for, then you’re on the way to success.

If you can, show your writing to a child of the age you’re aiming at. Children are the harshest critics and will soon let you know if it’s boring, cool, gravy or awesome. It’s then up to you to figure out if that means it’s good or not. With their feedback you can work at it to get the tone, style and content spot on.

So, study the magazines, listen to children and write for them, not at them. It could just get you published.

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