Thursday, October 4, 2012

Why I Write Books for Children

I write books for young children.

Actually, I write a lot of stuff, but the books I have published (1) and the books that have been accepted with a scheduled release date (4) are all books for young children.

I have been a BIG sci-fi fan for as long as I have read and watched movies, so many people who know me assumed that my first book would be in that genre.  I am an astronomer by training and many folks thought perhaps my first book might be a non-fiction astronomy book.  Since I have written an astronomy column for nearly 30 years, that perhaps wouldn’t be hard to do; just collect the best of those and format them into a coherent book.

I have several answers to the question of why I write books for children.  Writing an adult-length novel takes a long time. My ADHD brain makes it hard for me to focus on a book of that length for long periods of time. I have started several sci-fi and fantasy novels, but since I know how the stories end, I tend to lose interest before they get done.

I have heard from many people (who have never written a children’s book) that because they are shorter, they are easier to write.  That couldn’t be farther from the truth.  Think of it this way: a writer can have, say, 2% of the book be not so good writing before the reader loses interest.  In and adult sci-fi novel of 80,000 words, that’s 1600 words. In a child’s picture book of 400 words, that’s 8 words of weak writing.  That’s the equivalent of ½ to 1 page. In a 24-page book, that’s a lot and the bad writing will really stand out. The shorter the piece, the more critical each and every word is!

I don’t for children because it is easier. I write for children because it is more urgently needed. Children in the 2- to 6-year-old range are at their peak of the capacity to absorb information, to learn. They are at their most vulnerable, too. They can’t always understand why life happens the way it does, or why they act the way the do. I have/am raising 4 kids, so I feel like I have some handle on the psychology of children. What I want my kids to learn, to understand, well, there are not so many books out there that cover those aspects of growing up.

I write children’s books. Not because they are easy, and no, not “because they are hard.” I write for children because I believe that to be the biggest need in literature.