Learn to Write for Children - 4 Basic Tools

We all know how difficult it is to break into the business of writing for children. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, it is a tough business and can be overwhelming for those just starting out. While all writing must adhere to certain guidelines, writing for children has additional principles unique to its genre.

To start, the words used in children’s writing must be age appropriate.

This may sound easy to do, but it can be a difficult task. There are also certain techniques and rules used specifically in writing for children, such as the Core of Three, sentence structure, and the time frame in which the story should occur when writing for young children. In addition, it’s essential to make sure your conflicts, storyline, and point of view are appropriate for the age group you’re writing for.

Along with this, there are general techniques for writing, such as adding sensory details, showing instead of telling, and creating an engaging story that hooks the reader right away, along with writing great dialogue and using correct punctuation.

This is just the beginning though, there is also the business of editing your work, writing a winning query, and following submission guidelines; the list goes on and on.

But, don’t get discouraged, there is help.

Here are four basic tools to get you started and guide you down the children’s writing path:

1. Children’s Writer’s WORD BOOK by Alijandra Mogilner is a great resource that provides word lists grouped by grades along with a thesaurus of listed words. This allows you to check a word in question to make sure it is appropriate for the age group you’re writing for. It also provides reading levels for synonyms. It’s a very useful tool and one that I use over and over.

2. The Institute of Children's Literature.

Read and learn about how to write for children. There are plenty of books and courses you can find online that will help you become a 'good' children's writer. The Institute of Children's Literature has an excellent reputation. 

3. The Frugal Editor by award winning author and editor, Carolyn Howard-Johnson.

This is a useful book for any writing genre, including children’s. It will guide you through basic editing, to getting the most out of your Word program’s features, to providing samples of queries. The author provides great tips and advice that will have you saying, “Ah, so that’s how it’s done.”

4. How to Write a Children's Fiction Book by award-winning author and successful children's ghostwriter Karen Cioffi.

Yes, it's my book, but it really is jammed packed with tips, advice, examples, and much more on writing for children. It also includes DIY assignments and touches on submitting your manuscript and book marketing.

I’ve invested in a number of books, courses and programs in writing and marketing, and know value when I see it. The products above have a great deal of value for you as a children's writer, and they are definitely worth the cost.

Remember though, the most important aspect of creating a writing career is to actually begin. You can’t succeed if you don’t try. It takes that first step to start your journey, and that first step seems to be a huge stumbling block for many.

Don’t let procrastination or fear stop you from moving forward - start today!

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children's author and a working children’s ghostwriter as well as the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move. You can find out more about writing for children and her services at: Karen Cioffi Writing for Children. Check out the DIY Page!

And, check out my middle grade fantasy adventure, Walking Through Walls, and my new picture book: The Case of the Plastic Rings – The Adventures of Planetman (the first in a three-book series):


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Terry Whalin said...


I loved your opening lines about how difficult it is to break into children's writing. Many writers start assuming anyone can do it because they have read many simple children's books. What they do not understand is the careful thought and work that went into every selected word. Thank you for this article and your continued work with children's writing. It is important.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

I am so glad you did something on your new book, Karen. I loved it. I hope anyone thinking of writing a children's book or just writing down memories for their grandchildren will get it, read it, and mark it up for future reference!

Linda Wilson said...

Thank you for your helpful article, Karen. I'm very familiar with two of the books you mentioned because I own them, have read them, and they've helped me a great deal: your book on writing for children and Carolyn's series of "Frugal" books. I wouldn't be without any of them. But I'm not familiar with the word book. I will buy it, thanks to your recommendation. It, too, sounds very helpful. I agree with Terry and Carolyn, you do so much for children with your books, their parents, teachers, librarians and grandparents, and also for children's writers. Thank you!

Debra Eckerling said...

Great resources, Karen. I get asked questions about writing for kids all the time. Will be sure to share!

Karen Cioffi said...

Terry, I'm so glad my first lines got brought home that it's not easy to be a working children's writer. To create a professional children's book, it does take a lot of thought and care. Thanks you for commenting!

Carolyn, thank you so very much. I'm glad you found How to Write a Children's Fiction Book informative!

Linda, The word book is a great tool for children's writers. I use it all the time. And I'm so glad you found my 'how-to' book helpful!

Debra, thanks! Appreciate all shares!

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