The Muse Marquee

Marquee Blog
Meet the Editors
Poppacrit's Den
Mother Hen's Bin
Up From Down Under
Worlds Apart
Between Writer and Pen
October 2009 Flashers
Flashers Archives
Poets Corner
POETRY Archives
Marquee E-Book Shop
Interview Archives
Marquee Bookstore
The Muse Marquee Ad Rates
Advertisers Links
Helpful Links
Writing For Children by Lea Schizas

Horizontal Divider 1
Mother Hen's Bin - Editor - Lea Schizas

Anyone_Listening.jpg 10.9K 

Horizontal Divider 1

Choosing Your Target Audience

Writing for children, for your information, is not as easy as you may think. Many writers believe writing for children is a cinch than writing for adults and will have no problem getting published. Wrong! Although children’s books are shorter than adult books, there are quite a few differences.

The most important difference is that children are highly impressionable to what they read and you have a big influence with the words you pen to paper. Writing for children is not only a challenge but also a market that is highly congested with submissions to editors. You need a story that will bond with your reader by bringing your character(s) to life with a storyline that’s visually captivating.


Let’s take a look at some of the differences found in children’s books compared to adult novels.

-Children are easily bored. In adult novels, you have the convenience of building your plot, intriguing the reader to continue to find out what’s going to happen. It is the same for children but the action needs to be constant lest you lose their attention. You don’t have the pleasure of making a child continue reading in the hopes the book will pick up further down the road or if you’ve stumped them and they don’t understand. I guarantee you they will put down the book and go on to something else.

Another obvious difference between the children and adult books is that the children books are read to the younger ones by their parents, teachers, grandparents; therefore, the book needs to be interesting not only to the child but to the adult most likely to read this book a few hundred times to them. In most cases, it is the adult who purchases the book so their interest must be captured, as well.

Here are some books I have purchased via school book fairs and have found them in the school library, as well:

1-“Junie B. Jones” series by Barbara Parks

2-Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst

3-Curious George by H.A. Rey

4-GoodNight Moon by Margaret W. Brown

5-If You Give A Mouse A Cookie by Laura J. Numeroff

6-Madelaine by Ludwig Bemelmans

7-I Love You by Robert Munsch

8-The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsberg

Going to your local bookstore and checking out some of the books above, you will see the different styles of each writer and the illustrations within each page to give you a sample of what publishers seek. While you’re at it, check out the different writing styles of these authors. How do they begin their books? What captured your interest in the characters? How did the story move forward and was the ending satisfying? Also compare the amount of dialogue from one book to the other. How did the author use dialogue to move the story forward? If you have any children’s books at home, then compare some of those books with the above questions to give you a better understanding how to write for this targeted audience.

To quickly summarize, writing for children is not as easy as it sounds. You need not only please the child, but you have the parents, the teachers, and the school librarians to contend with in order to get your book bought.

The Nitty and the Gritty of this week’s lesson:

When writing for the adult audience, you are relating things adults may have experienced or have knowledge of. Children do not have this luxury. They are still experiencing life as they grow. Everything they may read is new to them. I already stated you must capture their attention right off the bat since they get bored very easily. One of the ways to do this is to make sure your story comes alive with descriptive images of your character and his/her surroundings. Allow the child to ‘see’ what you are writing about. And children love to read about other cultures and their way of life so this makes it even more important to give them the descriptive details of this new area to them, to visualize for themselves. But remember, keep these details precise, not long, or else you lose their attention.

But for what age group will I write for? Ah, let's go on.

Categories in Children’s Books:

In each age level, there is a different focus in writing. Children at various ages see the world quite different than a younger or older child. And for some reason, children like to read about characters slightly older than them, by a couple of years, keep this in mind when setting up your main character.

Picture books are aimed for the very young child, with mostly pictures and very few words, and they come in all shapes and sizes. In general, picture books are 24 to 32 pages long. Also, publishers have their own illustrators they like to use to keep their picbooks with the same overall structure. So unless you are a bonafide illustrator and know how to present your picture book to publishers, I wouldn’t even suggest you illustrate your book. Leave the publisher handle this part.

The Preschooler age group – 3-5 years old – consists of easy books to understand, read to them by their parents. Some of the subjects may be: colors, sizes, the alphabet, numbers, etc. These are known as CONCEPT BOOKS. They also include lots of pictures to demonstrate the words within as a guide to tell the story.

The Pre-Readers-aged 5-7 years old-, for the most part, are still read to a child by an adult, with lots of pictures but now contains a more complex story. For these easy readers, the wording is kept simple enough for them to read on their own. Some easy readers contain a poetic flair to them using rhymes, where as others have words repeated for an extra learning benefit. Think of the Dr. Seuss books as a guide. These books may go up to 1,500 words.

Chapter Books –for the ages between 6-8- are for children who can read on their own.  They are the first introduction to this age group to adult chapter books. The pictures are kept to a minimum, usually scattered throughout the book or in the beginning of each chapter. One of the popular ones in this age group is the Junie B. Jones series. Chapter books can go up to 10,000 words and usually contain cliff-hanging chapter endings to entice the child to continue reading.

Middle-Grade Books –for ages 9-12-contain lots of action, harder words are introduced with their meaning made clear within the context of the sentence. Some popular books for this age group are ‘Goosebumps’, ‘BabySitters Club’. These books can go up to 16,000 word count.

And last but not least, the Young Adult Books-aimed for the preteen and older. These books may contain such themes as: suicide, teen pregnancy, drugs and alcohol, historical fiction. Although these are adult themes, the difference in Young Adult books and the adult books containing similar themes is the graphic descriptions are kept to a minimum for the Young Adult. Keep in mind to write themes to capture the reality of the problems teens are facing now.

THIS MONTH'S CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS - using any of the below or your own, send me your sub of no more than 1000 words before the 15th of January 2006 to be published in our February issue. All subs will get suggestions and light editing by me, regardless if published in the Muse Marquee or not.

PROMPTS TO USE or make one up on your own:

-coming home from shopping and you find a little puppy near your house.

-Driving back home in the middle of the night and the tire gets a flat

-A phone call from the school principal upsets your parents

-You get new neighbours but they’re not very nice.

-Your first trip to the zoo

-You saw a scary movie and now are afraid to go to bed.

-A loved one dies.

Helpful Tips:


In early readers, there is no need to have a grand descriptive ensemble of what your character looks like. It is enough for a child to know the gender and age of the character. Once you begin to target the older reader, then these extra details, such as: description and flaws of a character can be added. Our target audience, middle grade readers, will need some descriptive details.


The first thing you need to do before you write is to know your target audience. If you are writing for a 10 year old, what possible worries, situations, or challenges can a 10-year-old experience and understand? By asking yourself this question, it will help you pinpoint and understand your audience much better. In children’s books, however, there is one important aspect to instil in your stories in order to ensure a reader continues: that is ‘hope’. Without the reader feeling a possibility of hope for the character’s dilemma, they will lose interest in a jiffy.

-keep the descriptive details to a minimum to save you added word count not pertinent to the story. For example: “John’s black shirt and red pants didn’t go with his white shoes.” Too long and doesn’t add anything to the story. However, “John’s black shirt was now white from the spilled milk.” may be had since the spilled milk is a mishap from John’s character not being careful if this is what you intended to show your reader. Just remember to have some action and descriptive details to allow the illustrator to paint your canvass.

-for easy readers, try to repeat a new word in several places for the child to recognize.

-For chapter books the main character should be a child, not an adult. He/she should have some dilemma to overcome, a simple one, like jealousy, rivalry, fear. Make sure to have the end show your character grown in some way. If you are lucky to have a character children can relate to, then you possibly have a series of books involving this character to write about in the near future.

-for chapter books and young adult books aimed for the older child, make sure not to have any specific words, like slang, which may date your book. For example, when I read ‘groovy’, the image of a hippy and the sixties comes to mind. Unless your book is placed in this time setting, then the use of ‘peace, man’, ‘groovy’, or ‘cool’ should be avoided.

Horizontal Divider 1

"Creative minds always have been known to survive any kind of bad training."
- Anna Freud

Horizontal Divider 1