Why do you write for children? is a question I get asked every now and then. It's a good question. Here are some of the good reasons why people do it:
1. You love children’s books, and always have.
2. You have recently discovered children’s books and been blown away the amazing things writers are doing in this field (if you answered no to both of these questions - for shame! Go and read some Philip Pullman/Hilary McKay/Rosemary Sutchcliff/Mary Norton/David Almond immediately!)
3. All of your ideas are for children’s books. You aren’t sure why.
4. You have very vivid memories of being a child - many of the most significant things that ever happened to you were in childhood.
5. You are halfway through your epic fantasy about a little girl who finds a magical kingdom at the bottom of her sock drawer, and friends have suggested that it might not be suitable for adults. (This isn’t as unusual as you might think - Michael Rosen, Mark Haddon and Meg Cabot all started out thinking their writing was for adults).
6. You have no idea. You recognise it is probably an insane ambition.
And here are some of the bad reasons:
1. You’ve read some of the tosh that gets published and you can do better than that. Really? I sympathise with the desire to write something easy - when I was a little girl I wanted to write alphabet books on the same basis - but just because something looks simple, doesn’t mean it is.
2. You’ve read Harry Potter and it was utter tosh - you can do better than that. If you think Harry Potter is tosh, you’ve missed all the reasons why children love it - the humour, the read-aloud writing style, the vibrant characters, the plot twists and the deeply complex world-building. Children want to go to Hogwarts because it’s clear that J K Rowling does too - if you think what you’re writing is tosh, they will recognise this.
3. Children’s authors are loaded, right? Cue hollow laughter. Most authors earn less than minimum wage - around £6000 a year. And that’s just the ones that get published.
4. You want to be a writer and children’s books are easier than adult books. Probably true if you’re a celebrity and can afford a ghost writer. Otherwise, bear in mind that while you have to get everything right that you would in an adult book - plot, character, motivation, language etc - you also have to be aware the whole time that you are writing for people who are fundamentally not you, and come with their own needs and expectations. Not easy.
5. You’ve written a story and your children loved it. Children love attention, they love stories and they love anything created especially for them. It’s great that your kids liked your story - but this in no way means it is publishable or has any wider appeal.
Please note that neither of these lists are exclusive.