Free Sample 2

(Another taster of what this course is about.)

Children and writing for them

There are two schools of thought about this.

  1. It has to be super easy because it is only for young people.
  2. It must be incredibly difficult because it is for young people.

Then there is my school of thought (the one I naturally prefer).

I believe that all good writing comes from the same places – your heart and your memory. Whatever age group you aim your talent at, the story has to be good, the pace has to keep the reader’s attention and the language has to be appropriate for the age group you are thinking about. Beyond that, if it is going to succeed, it has to be excellent.

I would go as far as to say that the younger the reader, the more excellent you have to be. Saying something deep and meaningful in twenty words is far more difficult than spreading it out over twenty pages.

Have a look at this.

  • Palio was scared.
  • Palio felt very afraid.
  • Palio shivered as cold fingers of fear touch his neck.
  • Palio’s heartbeat quickened. He looked behind him – nothing. He listened carefully – nothing. His whole body was tuned in to danger. But where was it?

READING EXERCISE

Now choose a paragraph in a book you are reading – a book for teenagers. If you aren’t reading at least one, you should be if you want to be writing for them. Even if teenagers aren’t your reading target, you will find some of the best stories (and the best writing) at this stage.

Read your chosen paragraph carefully. Now sum it up in three words.

Now write it back up again, in your own words, to about 25 words (as in the example given here). You can go off in any direction you like. Here is my attempt.


Palio touched the cold steel bars and shook with fear. There was great danger. But where was it? Like a wild beast, it would spring on him. But when?


A note on language level:
If you have a good look, you will notice that the number of words also allows for more difficult ideas (and more difficult words). Reading level is a notoriously difficult concept, and requires experience, but it would be possible to make an educated guess that the four examples above might be for ages 5 (maybe), 8 (maybe), 10 (maybe) and 12 (maybe). There are many factors that can influence these guesses – is the story being read aloud? Or read alone? Is the text being read in home language, or not? But the trend is fairly clear.

A note on word counts:
You can use your common sense. My example is 29 words. That’s acceptable, although I asked for 25. But if a publisher asks for 300, don’t hit them with 30 000. They won’t like it. (Or read it!)


   

 

‘I would go as far as to say that the younger the reader, the more excellent you have to be. Saying something deep and meaningful in twenty words is far more difficult than spreading it out over twenty pages.’