Previously published by Novel Advice and Gotta Write Network


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Copyright 2002



By Richelle Putnam


So, you want to write for children and young adults.  Wonderful.  What genre?  What age group?  Hi-Lo?  Short stories?  Non-Fiction Articles?  Fiction Books?  First Readers?  Non-Fiction Books?  Biographies?  How-tos?  It’s quite a list, isn’t it?

Don’t let the many categories frighten your away.  Use the guidelines below to determine where your interests are.


Primary – The material geared to six-, seven-, and eight-year-olds must be presented in language that is easy to comprehend, with a simple idea or plot.  Every word must move the piece forward.  Lengths can vary from 300 to 700 words, but are seldom over 900 words, and usually under 500.  Good examples can be found in publications such as Highlights for Children, Humpty Dumpty, and Jack and Jill.

Intermediate – This category is for nine- to thirteen-year-olds and requires lots of action and humor.  The writer should gear it towards boys and girls by using both genders as characters.  Problems can be more complex, but ones readers can relate to.  Remember, you want to entertain not depress, so use as much humor as possible.  Always use the main-character’s point-of-view.  The most desirable length is 1,000 to 1,200 words, but pieces with 700 to 1,500 words are often considered.

High School – Thirteen- to seventeen-year-old literature must possess complex plots, in-depth characters, drama, conflict, suspense, and an ending that leaves them satisfied.  Your storyline must be of interest to this age group, such as relationships, fitting in, jobs, family, or lack of one, and temptations.  Again, use boy and girl characters.  The preferred word count is 1,600 to 1,800 words, but 1,200 to 3,500 words have been accepted.


Picture Books – This category is a lot more complex than it looks or sounds.  The ages range from one through seven, but that’s quite a broad range.  Divide this category in three categories: one- to three-year-olds, three- to five-year-olds, and five-to seven-year-olds.  Text is determined according to age groups and can be from 25 to 1,500 words.

Picture books for ages seven to ten have fewer pictures and more words.  Though there is a definite plot and main character, an adult might still read the book to the child.  These books can be up to 10,000 words, and as little as little as 1,000 words.

Easy-to-read books – These books are usually for ages six to nine.  Try to keep these books fun and exciting for children to help them develop reading skills and to keep them coming back to books for entertainment.  Vocabulary is very important.  It must maintain rhythm and be natural.  Lengths run from 500 to 1,500 words.  An important book to have for this category is the “Children’s Writer’s Word Book,” a Writer’s Digest Book

Older readers – The eight-to-twelve year old readers are the largest reading group.  Have fun with this age.  There are mysteries, fantasies, adventures, fact, fiction, biographies, and the list goes on and on.  Lengths run from 20,000 to 40,000 words.

Teens – This is a complex group of twelve- to sixteen-year-olds, who want to read books that are real to them.  Characters must struggle, make mistakes, bad mistakes sometimes, and don’t always come out on top, though readers want to see a definite character change.  There are limitless categories in this division as well.  Read books on the categories you are interested in.  Character emotions are by far the most important element in teen books.  Try to keep the page count under 250 pages. 

Hi-Lo Teen – This is another category where the Children’s Writer’s Word Book comes in handy.  A writer must keep interest high and words at a lower reading level.  These teens are more challenged when it comes to reading.  Use plenty of dialogue.  Keep the pace moving.  Conflicts must be easily related to.

A final word of advice.  Write for children and not to children.  Make sure your heroes and heroines are children or young adults.  Everyday children live in an adult world with adult expectations.  When they pick up a book, allow them to escape to a world where children make a difference and even teach adults a thing or two.


Richelle Putnam is a former writer for All Headline News.  She has been published in Common Ties, E2K Literary Journal, World Wide Writers, Orchard Press Mysteries, Southern Hum, The Copperfield Review, Cayuse Press, Writer’s Journal, Obadiah Press’s Living By Faith Anthology, A tribute to Mothers Anthology, A Cup of Comfort for Mothers and Daughters, and more.  Her children’s literature has been published on the Institute of Children’s Literature’s website, Writing Korner, and Wee Ones, Boy’s Quest, Appleseeds, and Hopscotch Magazine for Girls; Her work is soon to be released in Flashquake, Fireflies in Fruit Jars Anthology, and GCWA “Mississippi” Anthology. Her novel, Fallout, was released in 2000; She is the Founder and President of Mississippi Writers Guild.