The Writing for Children Ropes - 8 Tips


By Karen Cioffi

Since I was a kid, I always enjoyed writing. I wrote poems, short stories, even songs. And although I enjoyed writing, I never thought of publishing my work or making it a career until around 2007. As a novice, I figured it'd be a breeze – easy-peasy. I mean how difficult could it be to write simple children's stories? 

Since I always felt comfortable writing, I thought it be a natural transition. Writing was something I always went to when in awe, when being inspired, or during struggles. And, I was always able to think of things to write about. So, I began the process of actually writing children's books with the intent of having them published. 

 My eyes were quickly opened. Another world sat before me, one filled with a lot of hard work, time, road blocks, and rejection letters. 

While I minored in English Lit in college, it had been many years ago. Along with this, it's not really the background specifically needed in writing for children or writing to get published in the market at the time … or now. 

To write for children … 

- You need to know what the current market wants. 

 - You need to know techniques such as the Core of Threes and having the protagonist solve the problem, not the parent or grandparent. 

 - You need to know showing is a must, and telling should be limited. 

 - You need to have the right sentence structure along with proper grammar and punctuation. 

- Your words and dialogue must be age appropriate. 

- You need to have an age-appropriate plot. 

- There should be only ONE point of view, one main character. 

- Your main character needs to grow in some way as a result of his journey. 

 - You need to watch out for blind spots in your writing. Spots where you know what you intended to be conveyed, but the reader won't. 

 - You need to understand and utilize words such as tighten, good voice, focus, point of view, hook, and lots of other writing elements. It goes on and on and on. 

Well then, just how do you learn all the information needed to write for children, especially if you don’t want to get a degree in children’s literature or are unable to enroll in a school specifically geared toward this subject? 

The answer is the internet. Sounds easy, right? 

Well, think again. Since I've gotten my Bachelor's degree, I've taken a few college courses and other courses long distance and online and I can tell you that learning a subject in a classroom is much easier than learning through other means. 

And, learning on your own with the internet is even more difficult and very time consuming. 

Why is it so hard? 

The reason for the difficulty is there are thousands and thousands of websites and blogs that offer children's writing information. 

You'd think this is a good thing, but not everyone online knows what they're talking about. For this reason, it's important to use common sense when searching for information. 

Make sure the site is current and posts content regularly. Another must is to research the blog owner. Does she have published books? Traditionally published? 

 Is she in the business of writing or a hobby writer? 

Another difficulty is that finding good sites can be time consuming. 

If possible, get recommendations from other authors or writers in your writing groups. 

So, what can you do to ease into this? 

 1. Writing Groups 

Your first order of business is to join a children's writing group. One of the best is SCBWI Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). There are new and seasoned people in the business of writing there who are willing and able to help. This is also a good place to network. 

 2. Critique Groups 

 Next on your plan should be to join a children’s writing critique group. You'll be able to find one in SCBWI.  

3. Writer Conferences 

If you're able, it'd be a good idea to make it a priority to attend a writer’s conference. 

Some of the bigger ones are: 

SCBWI Annual Conferences 

The Highlights Foundation Workshop Retreats 

Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference 

Northwestern Christian Writers Conference 

You can also do a search for others. Just be sure to look at dates. I've found a number of sites that list events that are outdated – by years.  

4. Writing Workshops and Webinars 

There are also a number of sites that offer online writing whether workshops, zoom meetings, or others. 



WOW! Women on Writing 

Gotham Writing Workshop 

The workshops and sites mentioned in this article may not all focus directly on writing for children, but they will offer great writing information.  

5. Blogs 

Another source of advice is children's writing tips from children's editors, publishers and agents' blogs. Often, you'll get super-useful tips and information. Find reliable and well-established sites. An excellent one is and with Mary Kole. 

Here are a few others: 

Steve Laube Agency 

Caitlin Derve Truby's Writing Studio 

Children's Book Insider  

Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi 

The Write Practice 

Writer's Digest 

Writers Helping  

6. Books on Writing for Children  

Below are a few:  

How to Write a Children's Fiction Book by Karen Cioffi 

The Magic Words by Cheryl Klein 

The Business of Writing for Children by Aaron Shepard 

How to Write a Children's Book by Katie Davis and Jan Fields 

Yes! You Can Learn to Write Children's Books by Nancy I. Sanders  

7. Read, Read, Read  

Read writing books and books in the genre you want to write. 

 As you read, pay close attention to the books in your genre. 

What do you like about the book? How did the author convey emotion? How did the author hook you? How were the sentence, paragraphs, and chapters written? How was the dialogue written? How did the story flow? Who was the protagonist? How did s/he grow through the journey? 

Pick up on everything you can.

 8. Industry Standards Matter 

Keep up with the industry standards. What are traditional children's publishers and literary agents looking for? What's being published? What are the standard word counts for the different genres? What books are winning valid awards? 

This matters whether you're traditionally publishing or self-publishing. You want a professional book. One that screams that the author knows what she's doing. 

While the world of writing for children can feel overwhelming, it can also be very rewarding. Take the time to learn the ropes so you can create a publishable book. And, create a time management plan. 

Keep on learning; keep adding tools to your writing toolbox. 

With hard work and perseverance, you can write a children's book that you'll be proud to be the author of and one that will be publishable as well as marketable. 

This article was first published at:


Karen Cioffi
is an award-winning children’s author, a successful children’s ghostwriter with 300+ satisfied clients worldwide, and an author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. For children’s writing tips, or if you need help with your children’s story, visit:

You can check out Karen’s books at:



Characters or Story Which Comes First?

Good Things Come in Fives

Think Beyond Bookstore Sales




Karen Cioffi said...

Tip #9: If your budget allows, hire a mentor or coach. It makes learning that much easier!

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

I hope all writers of books will take your points to heart, @karencv.
Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Karen Cioffi said...

Thank you, Carolyn. It is important to learn the ropes before jumping in.

Linda Wilson said...

Karen, this post is helpful for all writers, beginning and experienced. I'm saving it to refer to as I work on my WIP's. Thank you for being so thorough. It is a huge help.

deborah lyn said...

Thank you Karen for all these vital steps key for all writers, as others have mentioned. Endeavoring to write for children is a huge endeavor, but your key steps and advice help put the DO List in perspective order. Thanks!

Karen Cioffi said...

Linda, I'm so glad the article is helpful to you and that you're saving it to refer to.
Debra, there are so many steps to help in writing for children; I tried to include the basics - ones to help a writer get started.

On Mourning the Loss of Ask Amy for Her Daily Wisdom with My Oatmeal and Coffee Each Morning

  The Guest Blogger with Typewriter  She Used  in Early Ann Landers Days To #WritersontheMove Subscribers and Visitors: Amy Dickinson just a...