WRITING CHILDREN’S BOOKS TIP #2: READ! READ!! READ!!!
15 years ago, I met my ‘then’ role model and I excitedly asked her the million-dollar question: “What can I do to become a world-famous writer like you?” I expected a million-dollar answer, a one-way ticket to stardom, the secret to Enid Blyton’s success, something utterly profound.
What I got was:
Read Read Read.
Mschew, I thought as I walked away.
A decade and some later, I know now that she gave me the best piece of writing advice in the world! In fact, this should have been Tip #1. 😊 Do you want to become a bestselling children book author? Please read hundreds of books by other children’s book authors! Hundreds! Thousands! Set a monthly reading target! There is NO OTHER WAY.
A… Read what you would like to write
If you love historical fiction and you would like to write a piece of historical fiction set in Nigeria with a 12-year-old main character, please read at least 20 middle grade historical fiction novels set in Africa before you start writing. Read another 20 after writing your first draft. Note: Novels which provide examples of good writing are called mentor texts.
B… Read like a writer.
When you read, look out for craft elements* that the writer used to perfection and write them down. Note the way the writer uses them. Elements to look out for: point of view, character development, plot, theme, worldbuilding/setting, dialogue, scenes, literary devices, etc.
- Action: Create a Read like a Writer Journal.
For every book you read, write the craft element that appealed to you in your journal.
Here’s what mine looks like:
|1||Beasts Made of Night||Tochi Onyebuchi||Memorable Action Scenes||YA, African magical realism|
|2||Zahrah the Windseeker||Nnedi Okoroafor||Worldbuilding!!!!!!||YA, African magical realism|
|3||Aru Shah and the End of Time||Roshani Chokshi||Worldbuilding||MG, Mythology|
|4||Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky||Kwame Mbalia||Worldbuilding, theme||MG Mythology|
|5||Lalani of the Distant Sea||Erin Entrada Kelly||World Building, Xter Development (Hetsbi)||MG, Magical realism|
|6||How to Find What You’re Not Looking For||Veera Hiranandani||Character, 2nd person Point of view, emotional connection with writer: lots of heart, theme,||MG, Contemporary, Historical Fiction, Disability, Discrimination|
|7||Children of Blood and Bone||Tomi Adeyemi||Worldbuilding, Excellent Xter Development (Amari + Prince Inan), internal dialogue, 1st person point of view x 3||YA, Yoruba Mythology, The Orisha|
This table shows you the stuff I loved/learnt from the books I’ve read in recent times but it also shows you something else: the nature of the story I’m currently working on and the type of story I’d like to try after this project.
I am currently working on a middle grade piece of historical fiction with elements of magical realism. The bit on mythology is for my next project. 😊
So, figure out the theme/genre of your next writing project and start reading.
Want to write a story for children, don’t know where to start? Tell me all about it and we can figure out the theme and some mentor texts for you!
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*post on craft elements coming soon