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Is Writing Children’s Literature Easier Than Writing Adult Literature?

By: Nathaniel McCabe

It appears to be believed that children’s literature is easier to write in comparison to adult literature. This belief seems to be linked back to a few different reasons… 

  • Children’s books are shorter
  • Children are believed to be an easier audience
  • Children’s books are fun and childish

These beliefs that commonly appear to be embedded in the world of literature are entirely wrong. However, there is an underlying reason for this misconception. The reason is the fact that this claim is often made without taking the quality of that children’s book into consideration. 

Writing a poorly constructed children’s book in an hour or two is probably very easy. Writing a high quality children’s book that grabs readers and keeps them engaged for the entire story is very difficult. There are a few things that make writing quality children’s literature harder than any other form of literature. 

Children’s Book Authors Are Almost Never Children Themselves

This is the most obvious reason why writing quality children’s literature can be very hard. Roald Dahl illustrated this in his interview where he basically claims that adults are the only ones that are skilled enough to write a book. The problem with that is the fact that adults have grown through many different experiences and have lost touch of what it feels like to be a child. 

He then goes on to say that if a seven year old were skilled enough to write a book, then they would be the best fit for the job of writing children’s literature. The truth of the matter is that children are not yet skilled enough to go off and write high caliber stories, leaving adults with the job of making children’s books

Children Are Hard To Keep Engaged

Think back to when you were a child and had a story read to you in class. There were probably stimulating posters on the walls or birds flying outside of the window. This often leads to children straying their attention away from the story. From an author standpoint, a children’s book that does not keep children engaged is not a high quality book. In order to keep children engaged, there have to be entertaining events happening in the story that will refrain them from staring out the window.  

It is much easier to engage adults in a story. If there is a bestselling fiction novel that has a good storyline, some adults might not be able to focus on anything else but that book. There could be a phone ringing over and over again but you just simply do not want to put that book down. This makes it much easier for an author to write for adults. 

Inability To Use Cultural Modifiers

This idea was brought to attention by Mo Willems, arguably the best children’s book writer of this generation. He made the claim in an interview that as adults with many experiences, we have the inability to utilize cultural modifiers in our writing. This can be something like a reference to a well known movie or a common adult experience like running into that person you don’t want to talk to at the store. 

Instead of utilizing these cultural modifiers, Mo Willems says that authors have to stick to core fundamental philosophical thoughts. This is to say that the thoughts have to be very basic and simplified while at the same time being philosophical and engaging. This makes it much harder for adults to write quality children’s literature simply because of the fact that we have experienced too much. We have to block out all of our advanced experiences and think back to the mindset of a child. 

Final Thoughts

Children’s literature has the reputation in the publishing world of being easy and not worthy of prestige. However, some of the best children’s book authors claim this idea to be entirely false.

The main difference is that writing a poorly constructed full length novel isn’t a piece of cake. It requires hard work and persistence, even if it is poorly constructed. On the other hand, a poorly constructed piece of children’s literature is fairly easy to write and can be done in an hour or so. 

This is where the misconception has been formulated, because the quality of the book is not specifically brought to consideration. Poor children’s literature is easy to write but for those who aspire to create great children’s stories that engage children and win awards, this is going to be very far from easy.

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