I’ve discovered that some of my favorite tips for parenting kids can also energize my writing for kids. Perhaps you’ll find something here that will help you raise your little manuscripts into fully-fledged, awesome books.
1) Yell less. Kids do not like being yelled at. Sometimes writers have an agenda. We want to TEACH kids something. Right? But starting a manuscript with a lesson in mind can make for a preachy story. Consider instead simply writing a story. Write a character. Write something funny. In the end, there will almost always be an underlying universal truth. And kids will learn. Without all the yelling. Great examples of books that teach without yelling include the Llama Llama Series by Anna Dewdney and Jane Yolen’s Dinosaur series. Another phenomenal one is Mo Willems' Edwina The Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct.
2) Turn some music on! Music can soothe the soul and open the mind. Adding music to stories can draw readers back again and again, and allow them to make deeper connections. Add music through poetic techniques; pleasing rhythm, an underlying beat, onomatopoeia, alliteration, luscious language and on and on. You may even consider rhyme! But if you do, it is critical to study rhyme and poetry first. As an incredible example of a (non-rhyming) poetic picture book, I recommend Monsoon by Uma Krishnaswami. An equally fabulous musical book is Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett. It has lovely language with a repeating phrase that moves you through the story. For good old-fashioned rhyming fun, see Ollie and Claire by Tiffany Strelitz Haber. Start listening for music in books. And in time, you might start making your own.
3) Use humor to diffuse tension and create fun. Kids live to laugh. They build stronger connections when they get to let loose. Pay attention to what makes kids laugh. Better yet, get on the floor and laugh with them. Then use that inspiration to infuse humor in your writing. Create humorous characters and humorous situations. Or try something totally new and fresh. See books like Dragons Love Tacos (Adam Rubin), The Day the Crayons Quit (Drew Daywalt), or Here Comes Santa Cat (Deborah Underwood).
4) Spend lots of quality time. Beautiful books aren’t born overnight. They start with the seed of an idea. Then they need to grow for a while in your brain. After you finally put the words on paper, you’ll need a lot more character-building, plot-building and revising. And IF an agent or editor falls in love with your book, then many other people will be spending their quality time on it. No examples here, ALL published books have had a substantial amount of time invested in them.
Your manuscripts deserve your time and love, and the best tricks you have up your sleeve. And (like kids) when your manuscripts get the best of you, you’ll see the best in them.
12/19/2014 07:30:49 am
I love this post, Maria and your analogy is spot on! Writing a fantastic book is almost as fun and difficult as raising a child!
12/19/2014 12:19:52 pm
Thank you Kirsti! You would know better than I! And I need your tips on homeschooling, because I imagine that requires quite a few more tricks. ;)
12/19/2014 08:43:16 am
Great advice - I'll try it on my books. And my son :)
12/19/2014 12:22:00 pm
Thanks Angela! I'm working on applying them all in both areas too. ;)
Carrie Charley Brown
12/19/2014 10:24:59 am
Excellent post! Thanks, Maria!
12/19/2014 12:22:49 pm
Thanks so much for commenting Carrie!
12/19/2014 09:26:25 pm
Wonderful advise. Thanks so much.
1/5/2015 02:03:50 am
1/5/2015 02:29:25 am
Thank you Jan! I am so flattered! I'll be sure to check out your post. Thank you!!
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