Thursday, September 14, 2006

Irene Yates on Writing for Children

Irene Yates in the bookroom at Caerleon

Irene Yates is a very prolific author of educational books and children's fiction. She has written hundreds. She was the tutor for the Writing for Children workshops at the Caerleon Writer’s Holiday. I must say I enjoyed her workshops immensely. We had a visit from a commissioning editor of educational work for the primary school and she gave us a lot of very useful and specific advice.

This is a very brief summary of some of the things she said:

Know your market. Phone up the publishers and ask them to send you a catalogue. Get a feel for what they print.

Know how big the publisher wants the book to be, the size of the pages and the number of pages. Know where the pictures are and how many. Count the number of words to a page and / or chapter. Ask for the publisher’s guidelines or writer’s brief.

Because of the way books are made it is important to think in multiples of eight when writing your own books, whether they are fiction or non-fiction.

Editors move around and if you do what they want they will remember you and take you with them.

Avoid the fairy godmother syndrome. The child must be proactive in sorting the problem out. Remember the character does not have to be big to be good, they don’t have to win to be the best.

When you write a story for children, your aim is to make feelings inside the child. The children feel the world through their senses. Everything is new and fresh.

If you want to write for children you have to keep in touch with children by going into schools and also into the libraries to see what they are taking out.

When you are signposting, you need to signpost at least three times.

Think of a theme – what do you want children to learn from this book?

Remember when you write a book for children, you’re not actually selling to the children you are selling to the publisher.

1 comment:

Atyllah said...

Hmm, I'm not sure about this knowing your market bit - it flies in the face of the other frequently offered piece of advice, "just write the story you must write". With my first ms I tried to follow market trends - disaster. Since then I've been writing the stories that come to me. Although as yet unpublished, I KNOW the stories are that much better, they're more heartfelt. I think, ultimately, one has to blend the two bits of advice - write what you must, but keep the market in the back of your mind.