Writing for Children's Magazines
An Ezine


  Don't Underestimate Kids  

  By Ruth O'Neil  




One of the mistakes people make when writing for children is that they underestimate them. They underestimate the topics that children talk about. They underestimate what children know. They underestimate children as far as vocabulary. How do I know? I've done it before. Today's kids are so much less naïve than children of even a generation ago. Kids' tastes change throughout the years and so do the circumstances of life. For example, pre-marital sex and divorce were not spoken of in kids' stories a couple of generations ago. Now, it's the norm and today's kids understand those concepts at a much younger age than perhaps even you did.

I once wrote a story based on true events in our family's life. I was unsure of where to, or even if I should, send the story. I thought it might be too much for a child. When I sent the story I explained my feelings in the cover letter. I had written for this particular editor several times and knew she would at least read my story and then give me her honest opinion. To my surprise, the story was accepted. She loved it and said it was very pertinent to today's kids. Lesson learned: if in doubt, send the story and let the editor decide.

If you don't constantly have your finger on the pulse of what kids are into and what they are thinking these days, there are several ways in which you can update yourself.

1. Subscribe to magazines. Choose a couple of magazines that normally include topics you like to write about for the age children you want to write for. Find information about many children's magazines in the Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market. Age range is usually specified in the description of the magazine. You may also find the magazine lists at the bottom of this ezine's home page helpful.

2. Purchase a quarter's worth of take home papers if you want to write for the Christian market. Take home papers are usually short booklets, typically no more than eight pages long, that are handed out to children each week at church. Many of these accept freelance work that is suited to a specific age group. Here again, many are listed in the resources given above. Christian Writer's Market is another place to check.

3. Talk to librarians. Take some time to go to the library and ask which children's books are repeatedly checked out. Peruse these books to see what the stories are about. Take note of the vocabulary. Don't be afraid to use some bigger words throughout your story. This is how children expand their vocabulary. You might be surprised to learn that even brand new readers love a good mystery. Young children enjoy history and science if written in an interesting way. These books help them learn along with enjoying a good story. Offer the publisher education along with entertainment, and you will have a better chance of success.

4. Check publisher's websites. Sign up to receive emails when new books are released. This keeps you abreast of what topics publishers are accepting. It's true these are book publishers, but they may give you insights into what magazines are accepting also. Some magazines have sample stories or articles on their websites you can read.

5. Listen to kids. To make your stories more realistic, listen to the way kids speak. Include language in your story that actually sounds like a child might say it. Their grammar is not always correct and they might even end their sentences with a preposition!

6. Make your characters realistic. Pull some of the more colorful characters out of your childhood to use as a basis for characters in your stories. If you know a child that is particularly interesting or funny, add similar qualities to a character in your story. Characters need to be lively, interesting, realistic, and funny is helpful, too. If you do not have much opportunity to hang around kids that are in your writing age group, make an opportunity happen. Work with them at church. Volunteer at the elementary school. Read during story time at the library. Make some new friends and hang around the kids.

Don't underestimate kids. If you do, they will pick up on it shortly into your story, will put the story down and never return to it. Do your child research to make your story stellar.

Writing for Children's Magazines, Nov 2018    Copyright Ruth O'Neil



Ruth O’Neil has been a freelance writer for 20-plus years. She sees everything as a writing opportunity in disguise, whether it is an interesting character, setting, or situation. You can find her book series “What a Difference a Year Makes” on Amazon or her website (http://ruthoneil.weebly.com/). You can also visit her on her blog. When she’s not writing or homeschooling her kids, Ruth spends her time quilting, reading, scrapbooking, camping and hiking with her family.



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