Writing for 5-8 Year-Olds: Really Useful Links by Lucy O’Callaghan

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Lucy O'Callaghan

Lucy O’Callaghan

This is the last of our columns in the series of writing for children. This week, I have put together some articles and podcasts about writing chapter books. Chapter books are usually in two groups: 5–7-year-olds and 8–10-year-olds. The first group are emerging readers who you need to engage in the story while making sure it’s not too babyish. Creating a character that will hook your reader possibly with some humour thrown in can create a bond for reading that lasts. Children of this age can devour a series if they are hooked by your story.

  1. https://www.writersandartists.co.uk/advice/writing-for-younger-readers-and-chapter-books

This is the time for young readers to develop and practise their new reading skills. Books for this age group must look as if they are fun to read. Simple text and vocabulary with an engaging story – possibly interspersed with cartoon-style illustrations – works well. Using examples of published books, this article shows the writer what works for this age range. Humour will keep a less-able or reluctant reader engaged, and it doesn’t always have to be laugh-out-loud; gentle humour works well. Series are very popular with this age group.

  1. https://www.writersdigest.com/write-better-fiction/how-to-turn-an-idea-into-a-chapter-book-series

Writer’s Digest explains that chapter books are a literary bridge for children who are moving from early readers to middle-grade novels. Early chapter books for ages 5- 8 often have full-page colour illustrations and are shorter than those for 8–10-year-olds. This age range has short chapters, black-and-white illustrations, and around 6,000-10,000 words. Series work well as chapter books are consumed by readers quickly and with passion. They are always looking for the next book. You must make your stories relatable to the age group. Carter Higgins says ‘There’s something so excruciatingly dramatic about the daily life of a young person, which is easy to forget as a grown-up.’ Chapter books introduce some of the first characters that kids fall in love with. So, make your characters special and relatable to capture your readers’ hearts.

  1. https://self-publishingschool.com/outline-a-childrens-book/?channel=Organic&medium=Google%20-%20Search

This article from Self-Publishing School covers all forms of children’s books from picture books to YA. It is worth reading the bits that cover chapter books. It discusses outlining the five important milestones of a strong plotline as well as individual chapters. It also covers word and page counts and questions to ask yourself when revising your first draft. In children’s books, the story is much shorter, much more streamlined, and generally contains some kind of message or allegory. Also discussed is the basic structure: the beginning of the story, middle, climax, ending, and wrap-up. It shares tips to make sure your children’s book outline is as good as it can be including: identifying your theme, knowing your characters, finding your conflict, mapping out your plot points, and planning for variety.

  1. https://jerichowriters.com/how-to-write-a-childrens-book/

Jericho Writers covers writing for all ages in this article and is useful. You need to know the market for the age range you are writing for, reading books is the best way to immerse yourself in this. It discusses having a unique idea, creating relatable characters, plotting using character arcs, finding a captivating voice, and using settings and experiences kids will recognise. This article also advises how to avoid classic mistakes all new writers make.

  1. https://www.writermag.com/improve-your-writing/writing-for-young-readers/childrens-book-mistakes/

Writer Mag discusses 5 terrible, horrible, no good, very bad children’s book mistakes. If you want to write a children’s book, consider the listed here misconceptions and their corrections before you begin.


  1. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/writing-for-children/id1121077274

The Institute of Children’s Literature has taught hundreds of thousands of aspiring writers, and the director of ICL is the host of Writing for Children. Bestselling children’s author Katie Davis focuses on the craft of writing for children: how to write a children’s book, how to write for children’s magazines, and how to get paid and get published. There are listener questions, with answers from the experts at the Institute, plus hard-to-find resources and links included in every week’s show notes.

  1. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/one-more-page/id1317667776?mt=2

One More Page is a podcast for lovers of kids’ books. Packed full of interviews, book reviews, and industry gossip, not to mention the occasional fart joke, One More Page is your fortnightly foray into the world of children’s books.

  1. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-yarn/id1028877816?mt=2

The Yarn takes listeners behind the scenes of children’s literature. Each episode features an author or illustrator talking about how they create books for young readers.

Reading books for this age group will give you a good idea of what makes a child want to turn the page. See where an author begins the story; how they get straight to the action. Focus on how an author writes for the illustrator and how even minimum dialogue can show the personalities of your characters. I hope this week’s column has been useful for you. As always, please get in touch if they are any topics you would like me to cover.

(c) Lucy O’Callaghan

Instagram: lucy.ocallaghan.31.

Facebook: @LucyCOCallaghan

Twitter: @LucyCOCallaghan

About the author

Writing since she was a child, Lucy penned her first story with her father called Arthur’s Arm, at the ripe old age of eight. She has been writing ever since. Inspired by her father’s love of the written word and her mother’s encouragement through a constant supply of wonderful stationary, she wrote short stories for her young children, which they subsequently illustrated.
A self-confessed people watcher, stories that happen to real people have always fascinated her and this motivated her move to writing contemporary women’s fiction. Her writing has been described as pacy, human, moving and very real.
Lucy has been part of a local writing group for over ten years and has taken creative writing classes with Paul McVeigh, Jamie O’Connell and Curtis Brown Creative. She truly found her tribe when she joined Writer’s Ink in May 2020. Experienced in beta reading and critiquing, she is currently editing and polishing her debut novel.
Follow her on Instagram: lucy.ocallaghan.31. Facebook and Twitter: @LucyCOCallaghan

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