Writing Craft Reviews: The Magic Words
Title: The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults
Author: Cheryl B. Klein
Publication Date: September 6, 2016
Page Count: 368
The Magic Words aims to help authors craft books with kids and teens as their target audience, covering every step from the brainstorming process to seeking publication.
Newer authors who want to write books for kids or teens. Also, more experienced authors who are switching audiences from adult writing to kidlit.
Not Recommended For:
Experienced kidlit writers—there’s not much new here craft-wise, especially since the book is now several years old. Also, totally brand-new writers who are just starting a first book—a lot about the basics of writing and revising is quickly glossed over here, so you may want to find something a bit more simplified to start with.
This book has an absolutely phenomenal sense of practicality to it. The tone is very friendly, but it’s also matter-of-fact and realistic, especially when concerning the differences between writing for kids and writing for adults. And there are plenty of exercises throughout to get you practicing what you’ve learned.
Though a majority of the advice in the book can apply to writing for any age range, there are a lot of nuggets of information that apply specifically to kids’ books, things like how to choose the characters’ ages, how much graphic content is or isn’t okay, and tips for getting back into the mindset of your target age range. If you haven’t written for kids before but you’re already an established writer, The Magic Words is worth a read even for this aspect alone.
The author is also very clear that this book is not meant to be a set of strict rules, but rather that readers should take what’s useful and ignore the rest. (Any book that admits there’s no universal right or wrong to writing has my heart immediately.) She pulls quotes from other authors and provides lists of other resources for areas where she has less hands-on experience. She’s also careful to provide contradictory examples for many pieces of advice, just to show where not following her advice can also work in certain situations.
Not So Helpful:
If you’re a brand-new writer who’s never written a novel before, then this book might be a bit too much for you. There’s a lot of theory in here, and the basics of writing and revising a book are quickly glossed over in favor of the more nitty-gritty stuff that might be a bit too overwhelming for a new writer. I’d recommend starting with a more beginner-friendly craft book if you’re fresh to the process. (You can check out my other craft book reviews here!)
There was also one metaphor towards the end of the book that I personally thought didn’t work very well, and that was comparing publishing to love/marriage. While I understood what the author meant by the metaphor and thought that it mostly worked, by the end of the section, it felt a bit too drawn out for my tastes.
The author is careful to note from the start that the majority of the advice in this book is not to be used during the first draft. Most of it, in fact, is meant for revisions and self-editing, making this an excellent book to turn to once you’ve already got a first draft done.
If you’re new to writing kidlit, then this is the perfect book to pick up as a primer to writing for kids. You might find that it covers familiar ground if you’re a more experienced writer, but it’s also a great read if you’re making the transition into books for kids, even if you’ve written before. I highly recommend this!
Curious about what I read besides writing craft books? You can find more reviews on my Goodreads!