With the beginning of April came a (slow) new beginning for a my newest writing project.
I can honestly say writing for children is different in several obvious ways, but ways that I didn’t really give a second thought to until I began.
First, vocabulary is a big focus. Would 12-year-old Molly even think to herself that something is primitive? Would Molly even know what that meant? It would depend on what kind of 12-year-old Molly is, but, I’m going to go with no. But some words are so ingrained in our adult minds that we have a hard time replacing them. Or, if you are me, you have a hard time replacing it with something more understandable. I don’t want to say something is “simple” or “basic,” when when you’re writing for kids, these are the kinds of words to use, because they are easy to understand. They promote readability.
The next thing I noticed while writing the first chapter of my still-untitled book, is that some of the jokes or sarcastic comments I want to make, I can’t. They would not be understood by my audience, regardless of how funny. And it would be wasted. And the only thing worse, or at least on par with, a misunderstood joke or misunderstood sarcasm is when it is wasted.
I’ve also found that my word count for each chapter, though more of a rough guideline (who am I kidding, I don’t think I could write under my word count for a chapter), can also be a hindrance. One of the most important things in writing, and especially for children, is to keep the story moving. No one likes to read the long asides that Dickens, Hugo and other classic writers always made. And today, you don’t have to write even in the same league as those asides to lose your reader or make them skip a few sentences or paragraphs ahead–or even to the end of the book. My goal for each chapter is 1,000 words. Pretty light, about a page and a half single spaced. But if I can’t keep the story moving, if I’m padding to reach that 1,000 words, it’s too much. I’ll bet that will be my struggle throughout this whole project, because it’s something I’ve done in every other draft I’ve written. I’ve always preferred to chop words out than scramble to put more in.
All in all, though, I enjoyed writing the first chapter. I got to channel my inner child–the sassy, melodramatic me that the years polished into a less melodramatic, more sarcastic and mildly sassy me. It’s fun to write and know exactly what I would have said or done in a situation, and it helps me know what Molly would do, because in a lot of ways, Molly is me.