Beginner Basic Training: The Why of Writing Kidlit
Last week should have been Week #5 for our series, the Beginner Basic Training, but the whole week was kind of hijacked by some exciting news. However, today we are continuing our series and will be focusing on the WHY of Writing KidLit.
To review, we’ve spent four weeks discussing the Who, What, When, and Where questions that we, as writers, should be able to answer as we write a book. When writing for children, it can seem like these questions are unimportant, but even with the most simple premise a children’s author can create more depth, more detail, and more delight for their readers if they just take the time to find the answers.
When you research the WHY question, we are quite frequently asked it on a personal level. What’s your Why? is heard at conferences across the globe in regards to finance, retirement, careers, hobbies, and more. In this industry, we hear common answers, such as I love children, or I want to impact a generation, or I think kids should have fun, fresh stories. There’s nothing wrong with these replies, but when these same folks sit down to write, they find that it’s not as easy and that their WHY doesn’t carry them past the challenges, frustrations, and peaks and valleys of crafting a truly unique and impactful story.
So, you should first know your WHY for writing the specific story that you’re focused on. To find it ask yourself the following: Is there a void in the market? Is there an audience who needs this book? Is this truly unique and a never-been-done point of view? Is the WHY a selling point? Writing children’s literature is noble, but it is also a business. Be sure your personal WHY can carry you through the ups and downs of your publishing journey.
Once you have your personal WHY, you will be able to unlock many of the answers needed for the additional five writing questions, and you can elaborate on your WHY within your manuscript and focus on the visual and verbal elements that the WHY question brings to the table.
The Why question is the cause and effect. The WHY gives your readers a reason that a character belongs, a crime is committed, a romance is begun, a setting is created. The WHY gives purpose.
Here are some sample WHY questions that might need answers within a story arc:
- Why did it happen?
- Why does it matter?
- Why is he or she here?
- Why did they go that route?
- Why did the villain commit the crime?
- Why does the main character care?
- Why did he/she walk that path?
- Why are these characters friends?
- Why is this location being used?
- Why is this object valuable?
- Why are they running for their lives?
- Why does this need attention?
- Why is this concept important?
- Why is this topic necessary?
As a writer, when you can identify the causes for your choices within events, actions, and words, you answer the questions and the effects become more obvious, more vocal, and more available. When we know WHY certain things previously happened, are currently happening, or eventually will happen within a plot, it directs our path and keeps us on that path even when there are distractions, detours, and new developments along the way.
Your WHY is your Focus. Your WHY is the core of your children’s picture book, elementary chapter book, and middle grade or young adult novel. When you find your WHY, your Who, What, When, and Where will be answered as well.
Find your WHY and everything else, like plot, characters, setting, conflict, tone, and visuals, will begin to take shape and fall into place.