Children’s books, especially, need readability. Not just for a single read, either. They need to be the kind of thing a parent wants to read over and over. You want to write the book the children request when they get an option.

Many adult books are not read for continued readability. As a graduate professor once told me, in a very snarky voice, “I don’t even have enough time to read fiction once, much less multiple times.”

Unlike that prof, I read very fast and I’ve given fiction a priority in my life. I have read books again and again. Some favorite authors I re-read every single word they write. Others, I know they’re going to spend 10-20 pages explaining some technical thing they made up anyway and I didn’t really care about the first time. When I re-read their books, I skip those sections.

As children’s authors, we can’t afford to have sections the kids (or parents) don’t want to re-read.

I am writing this for me at least as much as for you. I need to remember that.

Too Much Information:

I have so much information in my head about my characters, their worlds, their experiences–or I do by the time I get to revision 3–that I want to put too much in.

Does it matter if Dog’s name used to be Supercallifragilistic Hosanabanana? ONLY if it is relevant to the plot. I need to remember to leave out the stuff folks don’t need to know.

Someday, when I get super famous for my writing and every word that comes off my computer is revered, I might share about that crazy name that Dog shed like water from a beagle. Until then, it’s a treat for me, but NOT something the readers need.

Breaking the Contract:

Imagine a book that started…

Dog, previously known as Supercallifragilistic Hosanabanana, … And you NEVER come back to that name. You never say why it was changed. You never say when it was changed. If you do that, you have broken the social contract of writer to your readers, which says that everything you write is and will be relevant to the story that you finally publish.

You will have very unhappy readers.

If you say it is going to be there, it better be there.

This last month I have been re-reading a strange and delightful, though totally unbelievable series, about a 14 yo who starts a revolution with her two friends and saves her entire community and helps create starships and outwits the professional spies and… I like the story well enough to have read it more than once BUT I have gone through and marked PLOT PT when the author says something that should (but often doesn’t) come to fruition later. He better have more than 10 books in this series or he is going to have one very unhappy reader.

As a point totally extraneous to a children’s book, I hope, I also have marked the multiplicity of times that the author forgot the history he said 12 yo MC in another series had studied. Was she still in the Roman era or had she gotten to the medieval period or was she studying about the East India Company? That’s 1000 years of difference. He should have fixed that.

Don’t tell your reader you are going to do something unless you do it.

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