Children's Writing: What's In...and What's (Often) Wrong

by Jon Bard, Children's Book Insider


  • Multicultural Literature: stories with ethnic characters, stories from other cultures.
  • Nonfiction For All Ages: write about things that kids are learning at school.
  • Easy Readers: short books for kids (6 to 8) who are starting to read on their own.
  • Chapter Books: short novels broken into chapters for children ages 7 to 10.
  • Horror Stories: spooky stories are hot for ages 8 and up.


  • Poorly conceived Talking Animals. Editors are sick of Sammy Squirrel and Max Mosquito. The same goes for Claude the Cloud, Billy the Button or any other inanimate object. Talking animals aren't completely taboo, it's just that most writers don't do them very well. What's important is that your animals have completely developed, unique personalities and characteristics. You need to develop these characters just as carefully as if you were creating human characters. And give your readers some surprises. For example, a rabbit might not be cute and cuddly; he may be absentminded, selfish, or cunning. "Charlotte's Web" by E.B. White (a middle grade novel) is an excellent course on how to create unique animals characters.
  • Single-spaced Manuscripts. Manuscripts should be typed, double-spaced, and sent with a brief (less than one page) cover letter. No exceptions.
  • Treating Kids Like Babies. Don't talk down to your readers. Use rich and interesting language that evokes strong visual images, not baby talk.
  • Preaching. Your job as a writer: entertain. If your story has a message, tell it through the plot and characters, not by a "moral" attached to the end.
  • Weak Beginnings. Grab the reader in the first two paragraphs or you're doomed. Begin fiction with an action scene, nonfiction with an event or interesting facts. Don't start your book with Chapter 2, wasting the first chapter with character description and background, setting, time period, etc.