Tips for Writing Books for Younger Children

by Lisa Balthazar

The rules for writing books for younger children (ages 2–8) are different from the rules for writing books for middle graders or young adults.

Keep the following 12 commandments in mind. (As with most commandments, you may be able to dance around one or two, but you’d better have a good reason.)

  • It’s okay to be different from others, but it’s not easy.
  • Bad guys never win.
  • The good guy must come out on top in the end.
  • Extremes rule (the world is black or white, not both — most children ages 10 and under can be quite literal).
  • All characters should be drawn with both good points and weaknesses. No one is just one or the other — even the good and the bad guy.
  • It’s fine for something to be scary, but it can never touch a little kid’s body.
  • Little people can triumph over big people.
  • Poopoo, peepee, tushies, passing gas, burping, underwear — they’re all hilarious.
  • Turning things upside down is funny — as long as those things make sense in the first place right side up.
  • Magic can occur as a logical reaction to an action.
  • Regular children can perform extraordinary feats.
  • Regular children can go on implausible missions sanctioned (or not) by adults in charge.

About the Author

childrens book editing services by Lisa BLISA BALTHAZAR is a publishing executive and book editor with over 20 years’ experience in the industry. She currently works with writers who intend to self-publish as well as writers who are preparing query letters and book proposals for literary agents and traditional publishers.

Lisa was Editorial/Publishing Director for Golden Books, Price Stern Sloan-Penguin Random House, Intervisual Books, Gateway Learning Corp (Hooked on Phonics), and other established publishing houses.

As an editor, Lisa has helped hundreds of published authors hone their skills as writers. She is always a writer’s toughest critic but biggest cheerleader.

Lisa's critique letter and developmental editing includes character development and character arc, storyline and plot points, drama and conflict, pacing, dialogue, writing style, effective transitions and chapter breaks, grammar, formatting, PLUS any issues with your novel you might not be aware of.

"Lisa is an excellent editor. She has edited several manuscripts for me that were sent to my agent who accepted them without change and sent them on to various publishing houses. They were published with a minimum of editing, thanks to Lisa's insightful and enlightened work. I highly recommend her." —Ellen Jones

Quick tips for children's book writers:

  • If your character hasn't changed at the end of your story, chances are he isn't yet fully fleshed out.

  • If your character talks to himself or does a lot of wondering aloud, he needs a friend to talk to.

  • Don't create main characters who have a problem they don't solve themselves or who don't change throughout the course of the story.
  • Don't talk down to children as if they're small, idiotic adults.

FREEBIE: Lisa's clients receive her Manuscript Formatting and Grammar Guide.

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