Thank you so much for being available for people like me. Although I consider myself an excellent “googler”, I cannot find the answer to my questions to save my life.
I have a seven year old child who taught himself how to read at 4, and although he is going to be in second grade next year, they are planning to get with his teachers to establish a special syllabus for him because he is so advanced. A week ago, he came to us and informed us that he was writing a series of books, and wanted us to jot down some notes for him. He then started dictating to us the characters that he had invented.
I am impressed with most everything he says, but these characters took me by surprise. I actually posted a few of them in a list on Facebook, and I have had several people email me requesting to be contacted when he gets his book published—and they are not asking for their children, they are asking for themselves.
I never really thought about publishing any of his work, although it has been suggested to me by a few of his teachers, because he thinks ‘outside the box’. I see this story leaning toward the young adult/adult crowd rather than children.
So…with all of my ramblings out of the way…I will ask a few questions:
1.) Although the publishing would be great for his future, we really don’t want him to be “noticed” that much. He already gets a lot of (sometimes) negative attention because he is so different and smart, and we don’t want to make things worse for him. How could we do that without taking away from his accomplishment?
2.) He “dictates” to us, often. I’m not sure how it works when it comes to a child writing. Does he have to type it himself (he could do so…but his brain is a lot faster than his litle fingers), does he have to write it by hand? Can I assist with making sure there are no run on sentences, and proper English is used? At that point…does it become my book and not his?
3.) What do I need to do once the first book is complete?
4.) Is this even a good idea? I want him to learn as much as he can, and go to college and do great things…will putting him in this situation steer him away from that?
Thank you so much for your time.
Wow! I love young writers. They can be very inventive because they aren’t yet constrained by what “society” expects from them. I had a child very similar to what you describe. She wrote a few books when she was in kindergarten and first grade. We published them (ie: photocopied and spiral bound them) and gave them to family members, but didn’t take it any farther than that. It was a good experience for her and now as an adult, she’s written and self-published several books that are very good.
(No, not telling anything about her or her books here.)
For your questions:
1. You could self-publish through Amazon’s CreateSpace under a pen name. Or you could just print enough copies for family and close friends. There are many ways to hide an author. As long as he’s not doing public appearances under his own name, it’s not that hard.
2. Some very famous authors dictate their manuscripts and hire assistants to type them. (Trying to remember who and it’s escaping me right now.) And every good author uses editors. Most of them have their work pre-edited by someone — a critique group, a friend, or a professional — to clean up their manuscript before they send it in. They even get feedback on plot, setting, dialog, characters, etc. As long as the ideas remain his and he retains the final decisions on those details, it’s him, not you.
3. Make the decision whether to self-publish OR seek an agent and start the submission process. In the initial querying, his age should not be a factor. The writing needs to stand on its own, just like anyone else. Once an agent or publisher has requested a full manuscript, you may want to tell them his age and ask if he can use a pen name.
4. Not qualified to speak to this topic. You, as his parent, need to prayerfully consider the options and make that decision. I would expect that a successful child-writer would encounter many of the same issues as child-actors, although to a lesser degree. It would be your job to protect him from that.
Also, keep in mind that all artistic works that are out in the public arena get harsh criticisms at times. This is part of the creative life. You have to be thick-skinned enough to deal with it. Most children—and to be honest, most adults—have a really hard time with it. Personally, as I mentioned before, I chose to protect my child from the negative criticism by limiting distribution to family who would only praise her work. I didn’t feel she was mature enough at that age, regardless of her intelligence, to deal with editors who can be brutal or a public that could be even worse.
Readers: What do you think?
2 thoughts on “Young Writers—Good Idea or Not?”
I have taught gifted students for several years and think that, at this age, most of the joy comes from the creative process, not being a famous published author. Bare books has some cheap ($1.75) blank hardcover books that you could use. Just print off the story and glue it in. It feels like a real book and he will have them for later in case he ever wants to do anything more formal with them.
I like that you address the issue of the harsh spotlight. Negative criticism can be a child’s undoing, and to see it on a large scale would be devastating. Think of all the terrible things said about Stephenie Meyer.. Do you want your child subjected to that?
That all said, this is a fascinating post and I hope that this child get a chance to pursue his dream- whether it’s now or later!
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