Writing for Children and Young Adults with Sara Grant (Words Away)

It’s a rainy bank holiday Monday here in the UK so i’m catching up on some reading, writing and blogging.
    Last week I attended my second Words Away writing Salon. I was a bit rushed as I was coming from an interview, but arrived just in time to grab myself a tea, and managed to settle into the last free table. Unlucky for me there was a bit of huff and puff by a fellow attendee who was not at all happy that she was no longer in a front row seat, something to the effect of ‘This is unfair for someone who has been here for over an hour”. I shuffled the table backwards as far as possible, but some people can’t be placated and as someone else sat opposite me the same indignant speach ensued.

Apart from this, I found that everyone is so generous with encouragement, and it’s a great sense of community.

Sara Grant- The Storyteller writes and edits fiction for children and teens. As a freelance editor of series fiction, she has worked on twelve different series and edited nearly 100 books.Her newest series, called Chasing Danger, is an action-adventure series for teens. Sara teaches Goldsmiths University’s master class on writing for children/teens. She co-created Undiscovered Voices – which has launched the writing careers of thirty-four authors.and teaches a master’s class on writing for children/teens at Goldsmiths University. She co-founded Undiscovered Voices – which has launched the writing careers of thirty-two authors, who now have written more than 120 children’s books.

Sara has never questioned why she writes for Children and YA and doesn’t always know who her stories are aimed at when an idea comes, it’s really driven by curiosity. Once she has the age of a character or the right amount of story for an age group then she can say ‘this is for xx group’.

When writing for children does Sara keep in mind that the books need to be sellable to Librarians and Parents, the ultimate gatekeepers?  Not really, if she did then the story might not make it through the process, and Sara does whatever the story needs to be told accurately because ultimately it might be the “Kiss of Death” for a book if a parent suggests to a child to read a book.

A trick her parents used to do was put the books they wanted her to read up higher on a shelf, making it seem forbidden.

So where does she start? Sara is a morning person, the writing has to come first. When this is done then she can do admin, and social media.   She’s a plotter, but believes if you’re a plotter than at some point you need some pantsing has to go on. Often she has to reconcile the demands of the market with what she loves, what’s at the heart of her story, and feeling a zing to get to the end.

She starts out with a 5-10 page storyline. It also depends on the age group she is writing for. Age 7-9 the storyline and voice has to be chronological and obvious, but if it’s for older groups there is more room to play around with elements of tense, word choice, and cultural references. But she makes a point not to use too many ‘fashionable’ word choices or references that would be out dated. and she writes without looking back, leaving her editing hat off for later, she makes notes as she goes, but won’t put energy into anything old as it’s the only way she can keep moving forward without feeling defeated.

It was very interesting to hear Sara talk about her experiences of a creative writing masters. You don’t need a writing degree to be able to write, but Sara explained that she had gone as far as she could on her own, and needed the degree to take it to the next level. It became a game changer and she would do it again tomorrow if she could.
Her over all advice is to enjoy the process. She plans to do the best she can and then enjoys it.

Keep Learning, Keep At It, Keep Reading, Enjoy It.


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