If you want to break into writing for children, nonfiction is where it’s at. Nonfiction is in high demand for publishers and especially magazines. They’re constantly looking for high-quality, engaging, and factual articles that can be used inside the classroom and libraries. Kids love it, editors need it, and you can write nonfiction articles for children!
But before you jump in and write an article about butterflies or the water cycle, let me share a few tips to help you research, draft, and submit to get an acceptance!
Use Primary Sources
Your sources are going to be incredibly important. Teachers and librarians are relying on factual and truthful information to share with kids. The best way to get the information is to go right to the source: the primary source. Interviews with people–scientists, athletes, activists–can provide the greatest source for your writing. My first nonfiction piece published by Muse was successful–I think–because of the interview I conducted with the individual I was writing about.
Newspapers, diaries, and first hand accounts are all great resources to search out and use in your research. And any research you use, be sure it is from a reliable source and can be confirmed by other sources.
Find a Unique Angle
There are certain kid-adored topics that will always be popular. Things like animal stories are always interesting to kids BUT, editors and publishers want to see new angles on these old favorites. Articles on butterfly migration are a dime a dozen; what can you say that’s new and different? An article about your favorite dog isn’t going to sell, but a dog having the ability to sense earthquakes before they happen? Super interesting and different!
Keep in mind “kid appeal” when thinking about your angle. What do kids like? What makes them laugh, or get excited or say, “EWWW!” (Because there is HUGE kid appeal in the gross-out factor.) The world is a fascinating place, and kids are excited to learn about it.
Stay Organized (and use headings!)
Nothing is worse that an article that rambles on and seems to have no point. (Ever read a blog post like that?) Most of the time we stop reading because we’re confused or the writer is taking too long to make their point. This hold true for writing nonfiction articles. You need to have a point and make it clear.
Most articles follow a pretty basic outline. Your article needs to start with an introduction that peeks the reader’s interest and introduces your topic. The body of the article (which is the meat of the entire thing) will flesh out the main idea of your article through supporting details, facts, and interesting (but true!) anecdotes that kids will find entertaining. The conclusion will wrap up the idea of your article and often leave the reader with something to think about. Maybe it’s inspiring. Maybe its a call to action. (If you need help with organizing your writing, check out this post for some great tips!)
Even if you don’t outline before you write, (I don’t) by the time you’re finished, you should be able to outline the article you have. (And many submission guidelines require an outline as part of the pitch.)
Stay Within the Word Count Guidelines
This goes without saying, but don’t submit a 1200 word article when the magazine’s guidelines say they publish 400-800 word pieces. In fact, all submission guidelines should be followed to the letter. Not following a specific magazine or publisher’s requirements is a waste of everyone’s time, and, quite frankly, disrespectful. Do your due diligence and follow the guidelines.
Consider Holidays, Seasons, and Magazine needs
Many magazines will list their themes for the up coming year, but not all do. However, most magazines will still publish articles based around the calendar year. For example, there are a lot of holidays in winter. Are there unique or little-known holidays that you could write about and submit? In fact, just this past winter (2020), both Spider and Highlights, had pieces about St. Lucia’s Day, a Scandinavian holiday. Think about the different seasons and what information you could share about that.
Another thing to consider when writing nonfiction articles is the appearance. Magazines always publish photos along with the articles. Does your topic lend itself well to great photos that are (and here’s the tricky part) easy to get? An article about bees making honey might be awesome, but getting photos of that process would be incredibly difficult!
Revise, Revise, Revise
Like all writing, whatever you submit should be your absolute best. Tighten your writing until it shines. Check and double check all grammar and punctuation. Rewrite any passive voice into active so that your writing is lively and engaging. Tap into the sense of the reader–yes, even in nonfiction!
Even if you’re just submitting the first paragraph or an outline, make sure everything you’re submitting is your absolute best.
Writing nonfiction articles for children is such a thrill. Just be sure to use quality sources, keep your writing organized, and submit only your best writing. Good luck!
Are there any tips you would add? Let me know in the comment below!