Monday, 13 January 2014

Kate Kelly's guest post - Margaret Graham

Happy New Year Everyone! 

I've known Kate for some years now, and what has always struck me is her endurance. She has written for years trying this and that, and always improving. Now she has really hit her stride with the successful Red Rock for young adults, published by Curious Fox. She's a lovely writer with some excellent tips. Enjoy!

And do remember that Words for the Wounded Writing Prize is now open for entries. Details on Remember that every penny goes to Tedworth House Recovery Centre and we raise the prize money separately. The spring is drawing closer and that is when Jan Speedie and I do our sponsored sky dive. Megan my granddaughter has decided that we should do wing walking next year. That requires some thought!

How I became a Children's Author by Kate Kelly

People often ask me why I opted to write for kids, and I’ll answer that it wasn’t a straightforward decision. It took me a while to find my genre.
Oddly the first novel I ever penned was aimed at young teenagers. This novel, like so many first efforts, was truly awful and is rightly consigned to the ‘box-under-the-bed’. But the act of creating this monstrosity was a valuable lesson – I realised how much I needed to learn, and I set out to do that.
Now I have always been a huge fan of Science Fiction, and that is what I started to write. But this time it wasn’t novels – the place I really honed my skills as a writer was with the short story.
Short stories are something I would advise every aspiring writer to dabble in. They teach you focus, and to be concise. They also give you more scope to experiment – if your try something out in a 60K word novel and it doesn’t work that’s a lot of time and effort only to find yourself back at square one. But if you try something out with a 2K short story and it doesn’t work you’ve only spent a couple of hours and learned a valuable lesson, which makes it worthwhile.
So I wrote short stories. I entered them into competitions. Some of them were shortlisted. I sent them off to magazines. Some of them sold.
At this point I turned my attention back to novels, since I knew that novels were what I really wanted to write.
It was also about this time that I was re-discovering children’s fiction through my own kids. It was wonderful to meet so many old friends – books that have stood the test of time, but there was also a wealth of literature that was new to me, and it was a wonderful discovery.
As I shared these stories with my kids I started to wonder if some of the ideas I had buzzing around in my head were in fact better suited to be children’s stories, rather than adult books. I decided to test this idea and it worked. The result was Red Rock, my newly published children’s novel.
But writing for children is not the same as writing for adults. So, for any aspiring writers out there who are thinking of writing for children, here are a few of my top tips:
1.       Get rid of the parents – the kids should drive the story forwards, not the adults.
2.       Make you main character slightly older than the top of your target audience age range – for example if your MC is 12 then you target audience will be 9-11.
3.       Learn to think like a child again.
4.       Keep the language age appropriate but don’t dumb down (and mind those expletives!)
5.       Keep the subject matter age appropriate – romance is for teenagers – not for 6 year olds
6.       Write for the kids of today – not the kids of 20 years ago
7.       Listen to how kids speak and understand how they socialise – it keeps changing.
8.       Know your market - read other recently published kid’s books
But above all, enjoy it and keep writing.

Kate Kelly’s debut children’s novel RED ROCK, a Cli-Fi thriller for ages 10+ is published by Curious Fox.

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