Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Review: Writing for Children by Linda Strachan

For Words on Wednesday during this Week of Children's Books, it seems fitting to review a title for writers on the children's book market.

Author: Linda Strachan
Title: Writing for Children
Genre: Non-fiction - writing manual
Publisher: A & C Black
Published: 2008
Source: purchased on my Kindle

Find it at Amazon UK or Goodreads  

The blurb says:
Many people want to write for children but are often unaware of the wide variety of markets to choose from or how to find the right publisher for their idea. Aimed at both established and aspiring writers, this book aims to offer advice on the whole publishing process from initial idea through to final publication and beyond.

All the key areas of children's publishing are covered: picture books, fiction, poetry, plays, non fiction, educational books, books for reluctant readers. There will also be useful advice for the newly published on publicity, setting up a website, tax and accounting, and handling school/library author visits.

My verdict: Comprehensive overview with many nuggets of great advice.
This book's range really is its strength. Most books on writing for children (and writing more broadly) assume that the reader is only interested in fiction - and probably only novels in the 9-12 or teen ranges. It can be difficult to find advice on breaking into non-fiction writing, picture books or the educational market. All of these (and more) are covered here, and all from the author's own experience, lending the book an air of reliability. Linda Strachan has published in many different age ranges, genres and markets and her experience is generously shared here, although she is careful to avoid presenting the way she works as some sort of set of rules.

It is true that the book deals with so many different areas that it cannot be a full and complete guide to any of them, but her basic advice to read examples of the type(s) of book you want to write, coupled with her practical comments on submission, contracts, tax matters etc, provides enough to get you going in a wide range of fields. I think sometimes we seek out writing handbooks assuming they will hold The Key to Publication, which of course doesn't exist. To my mind, a writer is likely to be able to judge what any given type of book 'should' be like by studying published examples. The 'insider info' that I was seeking was exactly what I found in these pages. You rarely find such additional advice as dealing with tax, school visits, author websites etc, so this was great to see (and will hopefully all be directly relevant one day!).

Overall, a very good buy for anyone looking for a broad career in writing for children, or for someone seeking publication in any of the fields less covered in other similar guides.

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