I did a talk recently for Irish Pen on writing for children - and I thought I'd pass on some of the notes from the event. The most useful things I can tell you writer to writer:
1/ Read children’s books – especially in the age group/area you are interested in writing for – library/bookshop recommendations, award winners etc. There are a lot of good guides out there to help you pick fab books – esp the ultimate book guide/teen book guide
It will also help you be aware of what modern children like reading – and what works in a book. And also – it’s fun – some of the best books out there are children’s books. I read very few adult books these days. If a young reader does not like the first few pages of a book, they won't read on. So books for young people have to catch the imagination from the very first lines, making them darn good reads.
It will also make you aware of the different age groups - picture books, early readers (age 4/5 to 7/8 depending on the child), confident readers age 9+, readers 11+, YA/Teen readers. You must know what age you are writing for - every publisher will expect you to know - if you don't know, how are they supposed to know? Be very clear about what age group you are writing for. This is often the first mistake people make when writing for children. No book is for 5 to 16 year olds - think about it. OK, maybe Harry Potter, I'll give you that one. But unless you are JK Rowling you give yourself more chance of getting published if you do the leg work - starting with reading in the age group you would like to write for.
More to come (12 points in total in fact) . . .