recently answered a question from a student on my
writing for children course. Id like to
share my advice to her because I think its
important to all writers.
My student told me that shed wanted to
write a story for a long time. She gave me a
brief outline of it, which sounded good.
Her question had to do with her writing
experience or lack of it. So far,
shes written a handful of short, simple
stories for children up to eight. She wanted to
know if, as a novice, she was out of her depth
writing a longer novel for older children on a
difficult subject. She wondered if she should
forget the idea for the time being and try
something less challenging.
Theres only one way to find out, I told her
by writing it.
I was encouraged by my students enthusiasm
and passion. She wanted to write the story. That
was obvious. Therefore, I think she should do it.
As I explained in my response to this student, I
believe that passion is most important to a
writer, of any genre. I believe that you have to
feel passionate about a story to write it.
Writing is hard work. It takes time, dedication
and commitment. It means sacrifices. Its
also a lot of fun, if youre passionate
I write for my own pleasure. I write because I
love writing for children. I love doing it more
than anything else. I write a childrens
book because I want to have to. I feel
passionate about it. I write for my own fun
first. Getting it published is a bonus.
I believe that, if I write something for my own
enjoyment, then others will enjoy it too. If I
laugh, others will laugh too. If I cry, others
will cry too.
Not all of my manuscripts are published. Some are
rejected. But writing for me in the first
instance seems to work most of the time.
I recommended to my student to write her story,
do the best job she can with limited experience
and have fun.
There are no guarantees that her story will be
published. There are simply no guarantees in
life. But shell have fun writing it and
shell also gain valuable experience in
writing for children.
If you want to be a writer you have to write. The
more you write, the better you get. Every story
is valuable experience.
Lets consider the following scenario:
youve written a story and made many
attempts to get it published. Some say that J K
Rowlings first Harry Potter story was
rejected about 30 times. If youve received
30 rejections for your manuscript then its
probably time to think about rewriting it. Is
there anything you can do to improve it? Or maybe
its time to call the story a step in your
writing career good practice and
move on. We all need experience. It makes us
better at what we do.
I often say that persistence is a key to success.
You havent given up. Youre still
trying. Obviously, youre in with a chance.
The practice of continuing to write improves your
skills. And passion keeps you going.
Thousands of stories have been written. Many of
these books have the same basic idea. They are
different because different personalities wrote
The Quest? I cant imagine how many books
contain this underlying theme. Boy meets girl?
The number is even greater here, Im sure.
Catching a serial killer? I think you get the
Everything has been done. Every idea has been
used. Your job as a writer is to make your idea
seem new and fresh. You do this with passion. The
way you tell the story. Your excitement. Your
connection with the characters. You!
Last year, I wrote a story based on a true
historical event which intrigued me. To get into
the mood inspire my passion I read
books about the time, place and incident. It
wasnt long before I was so excited that I
had to start writing. I couldnt help it. My
research also gave me the plot, as if handed to
me on a platter. As I read about the real people
and the period, individual words inspired my
imagination. Soon, ideas were swirling around in
my mind, forming a story.
There are plenty of things you can do to inspire
passion when writing for children:
Read books on a
particular subject, time or location.
Look for facts that excite you. Think
about them and their possibilities.
Read the latest
childrens books. This relaxing
activity is work for a childrens
author. Youre learning about the
market, getting your brain used to
thinking about childrens stories
and plots, and stirring the imagination.
Read books on
writing for children. Immerse yourself in
the subject. Youll gain valuable
knowledge and skills. Youll also
get your brain used to thinking about
childrens books and how to write
Take courses and
learn everything you can about writing
for children. Learning more about a
favourite subject (and doing homework) is
great inspiration and motivation.
writers groups and find other
people interested in writing
childrens books. Make friends with
these writers and talk often, in person,
on the phone or via email.
Act like a
writer. People often say that if you want
something then pretend that its
already happened. Its a form of
visualisation. So pretend that
youre a professional writer and act
the skills of a writer and experience goes a long
way, as it does in any profession. But dont
forget passion. Dont under-estimate it.