Thursday, June 13, 2013

Picking The Right Age Group

The question “How did you know what age group to write for?” has come up several times in my writing career. Curious readers or people who are thinking of writing a book seem to need this question answered a lot.

To me, it’s an easy answer. I simply love little kids and making them giggle and have fun is what drives me to write picture books.

When I first thought I might want to write children’s books, I began with creating a MG novel. It was a blast, but I have to admit, I got stuck mid-way through and still to this day have not finished it. But when I researched and read a ton of picture books, the minute I finally sat down and started writing one, that’s when I realized my passion for picture books.

However, when I actually read my book in front of a crowd of kids, my heart crumbled and without a doubt confirmed for me that picture books are what I should be doing.





Some may think writing a picture book isn’t really writing, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Writing a picture book is tough and must be done with tender loving care and strict guidelines. You can’t mince words or use words that aren’t important to the story or carry the story forward. Descriptions are a hard thing to carry through as well. You can only use a certain amount of words so they have to be chosen very carefully. In picture books a description of something can only be used when absolutely necessary; otherwise the author has to rely on the illustrator to bring things to life. So any words you do use need to be powerful, dazzling, and reminiscent replacements -- words that will offer an illustrator wonderful clues for pictures.


Writing a picture book that will be accepted by a publisher takes a lot of research, practice, blood. sweat, and tears. You can’t just sit down and write a story, it’s absolutely necessary that for a picture book to be accepted, you must do the research and follow the million guidelines required. And it’s surprising just how many rules there really are in the picture book world.

 

Writing for children, no matter the age, is so important and a pure pleasure. As an author, you have the power to not only bring laughter to their life, but it gives you a perfect opportunity to share some of what you’ve learned over your lifetime. Authors can inspire, teach, challenge, and bring magic to a child’s eyes and that’s the real reason I enjoy it so much. I love the opportunity to make them think but at the same time, help them dream.
 
What about you? Was it as easy for you, as it was for me, to decide what age group you should write for?

19 comments:

  1. I still haven't found that ideal age group, though I am getting more of a feeling that, like you, I should be writing picture books. I suppose time will tell.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You'll discover it, Terrie. Maybe you'll discover you were meant to write all genre's!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love writing picture books, too! But I also love writing for teens. Middle grade novels are fun to read, but I just don't have that voice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    2. Someday I hope to branch out into other genres too, Katie.

      Delete
  4. I'm all over the map. :-) But UNICORN KEEP was originally intended to be a middle grade book and morphed into young adult as I wrote. I do have another middle grade fantasy planned - we'll see if it stays that way as I write it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think all over the map is good! Shows that you can write in all genres.

      Delete
  5. I write for a lot of age groups and I love it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Good grief, PB writing is HARD. Whoever said its not actually writing has never tried it before. For me though its the teen group. I like that age. It fits me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would someday love to write for that group. I'm envious!

      Delete
  7. Gee Allyn,

    I was already terrified of writing picture books, and now you reaffirmed why I don't write them, or ANY book below middle grade because I'm not comfortable with brevity in the way picture books demand.

    Easy readers and chapter books are even more onerous because while adults and older siblings read picture books to kids not reading yet, early readers and chapter books are even more scary to me because since kids start reading with these books, simplicity trumps everything else, and as a writer, that's HARD for me.

    I'm just not simple by nature, and I know authors work on those books a long time before I see them in stores (Real or virtual) but I do believe some authors just access that simplicity easier than others, and I'm in the "others" group...

    That said, I have to challenge you on the "Research" bit of you post a bit. I did resarch for my novel, but you also have to know when some of that research is important to your specific story or not.

    Just like nonfiction (Which I have no apptitude for as a writer, but I read it, okay?!) you can't nor should jam all your resarch into one book. Fiction for any age group is no different.

    I know I'm MEANT to write middle grade novels, even as a teen I read more MG than YA, and that's NOT because I had learning differences, I just found more books I wanted to read.

    That said, I'm not one of those children's authors who's anti-adult novels. Sometimes I HAVE to read about people closer to my age, things kids can't or don't have to understand, but I DO, and I hope that's not coming off snobbish, but I should not be deprived of the latest Elizabeth Berg novel or book of poetry by Billy Collins just because they're not aimed or written for kids to read.

    THere are children's books that dawdle for some and engage others, why are adult novels any different.

    Slow moving is NOT always a telltale sign the author is "Boring." Period. Sorry for the rant, Allyn, but I HAD to say it. Not every book (Whether Children's, YA, or adult) can be an action movie or more tragic than the darkest play from Shakespeare.

    After all, what's the point of making kids/teens avid readers if they can't love books about adult characters when they at some point become adults themselves? That sound twisted in a so-FOR REAL-not-cool way, as I imagine (As a pre-teen Judy Moody might say), or as I'd say, horridly counterproductive.

    On that note, I also can't write YA because I'm not comfortable exploring what I'd need to explore to read true, and as much as people tell me it's not all sex, death and tragedy, I'm hard-pressed to find many 21st century examples to the contrary that aren't written by either Meg Cabot, Ally Carter or John Green. Nothing against those authors, but they're the only examples I can think of, if anyone knows of more, please share.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Well then, Taureen, I guess this post got you all riled up! Made you think, didn't I? LOL

    Actually, my post was really only about the fact that I believe I've found my passion and it's picture books even though they aren't easy to write. That's it.

    Doesn't mean that's all I read. I read all genre's.

    Sorry if you misunderstood but I appreciate your comments nonetheless!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I know you were talking about your specific experience, I wasn't mad in the least, like you I was just sharing my personal experience and that middle grade is my sweet spot writing wise, but I real across the board. I don't read horror or erotica, but that still leaves a WIDE range of material.

    I was also making broader comment that so many children's authors (Not outing you or our mutual writer friends) who have this snob factor with non-children's/YA books. I don't have that problem. I love Elizabeth Berg's fiction, she's written some YA, but I know her best from her adult novels and short stories and they're no less great reads for me than say Kate DiCamillo's various books or Tor Seidler "A Rat's Tale."

    Sorry for getting a bit off-topic, Allyn. Never meant to sound mad, just riffing on the conversation here.

    ReplyDelete
  10. So far I find late MG to YA works best for me. I think I am too sarcastic for littlies. ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm pretty sarcastic myself, Ellen. So I have to tuck that in my pocket while I put on my sweet, fluffy hat and write my picture books! It's like being an actress!

      Delete
  11. Hi Allyn, I started out writing non-fiction, then tried fiction, for adults. But I knew I loved writing children's stories. Started off with MG novels, but like you, it didn't work at that point. And I fell in love with picture books! I've had so much fun reading and writing picture books, but am now ready to get back to my initial MG manuscript. Maybe our stories depend on themselves and not us (the characters, subject matter and themes would 'decide' which age-group is best for that story and we just write them). Anyway, PBs and MG novels are my favourites. Great topic!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you've found what you love, Claudine. I think I would love MG if I could just get past where I always gets stuck, the middle. Hopefully, one day if I keep trying, I'll succeed at it!

      Delete
  12. When I married my husband I was already pregnant and so I didn't have a job. He had a really good job though so I was able to stay home and take care of our son when it was born. When we had our second child we moved to a bigger house, but then strange things started to happen. Things would fly off the walls and doors would slam at night. Our oldest son talked about seeing figures and hearing voices. We consulted a medium and they said the house was haunted. After living there about a year more with only minor occurrences we moved out. That was when the bad luck started to happen. Everything started to fail, with my husband's job, our money and our luck in general. I went back to the same medium and they told me that a spirit had followed me and placed a curse upon me for disturbing it and not being respectful in the previous house. He tried to remove it but was unable. The misfortune kept going on and getting more severe as I tried to search out someone to break the curse. But when I found Dr.Azonto spell he finally did it. Things started turning around almost immediately after he cast the spell and have been great from there! This was really a miracle for us, thank you . azontotemple@yahoo.com spell from the bottom of my heart!
    Posted by. miss Sandra Chali

    ReplyDelete