This was a lovely article on Mamamia last week, 8 rules that I didn’t know about writing for kids, that I thought worth making note of. It’s the second time in a week I’ve found something entertaining there.
It goes to show that in children’s publishing perhaps more than anywhere else it’s futile to think there’s a winning formula, there are so many exceptions to the ‘rules’.
Kate Hunter is the author of the Mosquito Advertising series of kid’s books: The Parfizz Pitch, The Blade Brief and The Crunch Campaign. In her article she gives a tongue in cheek account of current publishing wisdom as to what makes a popular best-selling children’s book. Some of them include; always making the main character a boy, making sure the main character is in every scene, building a story around ‘issues’ like divorce, bullying, drugs etc., adding vampires, wizards, fantasy etc. (though not that long ago these were no-no’s), and sticking to ‘what you know’.
Kids have as diverse interests as ‘adults’ and are going to be interested in a wide range of topics, themes and stories. They will inevitably gravitate to different kinds of stories as circumstances in their lives or their interests change. They’re likely to bore of some styles, try out others, become captivated by a different world that may be based in ‘reality’ or not.
And, just as obviously, writers will be attracted to writing stories for a variety of reasons, some because they loved similar stories as kids themselves or because its a topic that interests them now. It might be what they ‘know’ it might not be, its about the adventure of reading. There will always be new writers with a new take on the old formats and writers who take different directions that inspire us all.
Rules are seductive, they suggest certainty. But they come from the realms of board forecasting, sales targets and marketing plans not from what kids, or any other reader for that matter, is inspired by.