Time stops and new worlds open when children discover the magic of books! The good news is that babies and toddlers who are read to grow up to be kids who look forward to reading for themselves. 

Have you ever browsed through a children’s book or young adult novel and thought “I could write that”? Whether you were a youngster who loved curling up with a book or a parent who loved finding books that made your kids happy, you may have considered writing books for young people. Before you begin dreaming up ideas and plots, identify your target age group. The job is not as easy as it might look: writing for each group comes with its own challenges. 

Picture books: From birth to 6 years

Even babies love looking at colorful picture books, which are often printed on heavy cardboard and called board books. Unless you are a talented illustrator yourself, you need to partner with the right artist to bring your words to life. Picture books are short books, typically under 500 words. Your challenges will be to find your artistic partner and to write an engaging narrative within the space limitations. 

Beginner books: 6 to 7 years

Children are learning letters and words during this critical year in which good books can inspire lifelong reading habits. Pictures are still important in these longer books which run between 2,000 and 5,000 words. Beginning readers like series with the same characters taking part in exciting stories. Your challenges will be to keep the vocabulary and writing style simple: try to convey only one thought per sentence. At the same time, the story and characters need to be lively enough to keep young readers turning the page to see what happens next. 

Chapter books: 7 to 9 years

Chapter books tell a story that is long enough to be organized into chapters that break up a 5,000- to 10,000-word narrative into more manageable episodes. Illustrations are used sparingly and are could be black and white drawings instead of full-color images. Children like to read about characters who are a bit older than they are. For instance, chapter books for intermediate readers might feature characters who are 10 to 12. Your challenge is to bring these characters to life with strong descriptions and believable dialogue. Your characters should talk and think like kids.  

Transitional books: 9 to 12 years

These readers are ready for more complex sentences, longer chapters, and more detailed stories. These may not have extensive vocabularies, but they can manage books ranging from 30,000 to 50,000 words. They won’t expect pictures, although some transitional books might have illustrations on the first page of a new chapter. Your challenge will be to write an intriguing and fresh plot featuring substantial, believable characters who face difficulties and make tough decisions. Pre-teens want to relate to the characters, learn how their peers might act in situations, and even imagine themselves as the heroes of their own stories. 

Young Adult literature: 12 to 18 years

Teenagers read books that are as long as any adult novels, ranging from 50,000 to 100,000 words. A key difference is the age of the protagonists. Young adult (YA) novels follow adolescent characters facing age-appropriate conflicts, such as remaining loyal to friends or staying true to oneself. Your challenges include building a believable plot and realistic settings and creating complex and true-to-life characters in their teens or early twenties. Try to think like a teenager when you’re developing these characters’ personalities. Real people are seldom all good or all bad. You want your increasingly sophisticated readers to recognize and connect with characters who succeed in facing adversity and who learn from life.


Dudley Court Press

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