I'm delighted to welcome prolific author Ann Evans back onto my blog. Regular readers of my blog will know that Ann writes fiction and non-fiction for children, as well as articles for numerous magazines and romantic fiction. There isn't much multi-talented Ann can't turn her hand to! Today Ann is going to tell us about writing for Reluctant Readers.
Thanks for dropping by, Ann. Can you tell us how you got into writing for reluctant readers?
I received an email out of the blue from Badger Learning who specialise in publishing books for reluctant readers – or high low books. These books are for children whose reading age (ability) is much lower than his or her actual age. Badger Learning invited me to try out for a new Dark Reads series that they were producing. I read the briefs and was very excited to give it a go!”
Here are the two books Ann wrote for the Dark Reads series
These look fab, Ann! What age group do you write for?
I write for teenagers whose reading age is around 7 or 8 and also I've written some books classed as 'very high-low' where the teenage reader has a reading age of around 6. Obviously no teenager wants to be seen reading babyish books – particularly in school where they have to read. He or she wants a book with a strong story that packs a punch and will keep them enthralled. So for someone who isn't such a good reader for whatever reason, the story has to be written in a straightforward manner, using sentence structure and vocabulary that a much younger person could cope with. But the story must be suitable for a teenager. These books are also much shorter. So, creating an action packed story – or one that evokes emotion, in a small amount of words is quite a balancing act!
How do you go about writing a high-low book? How difficult is it?
It takes some thinking about. First you have to study the brief, and use that as a starting point. And then it's a matter of thinking up the story, without worrying about the actual words at this stage. For me, if I can visualise the story from beginning to end as word-less scenes, that's a good start. Then it's a matter of writing those scenes with narrative and dialogue, getting the excitement, emotion and character's personality across, and seeing if the story works. Once I've got that written and checked the word length – then screamed when I see it needs cutting by 200% or more I start looking at the sentence structure, making it as compact as I can. Pruning away absolutely everything that's not necessary or is slowing the story down. I'll also be checking the vocabulary and changing words where necessary in line with the reader's ability.
How fascinating. Thank you for sharing your writing process with us.
Are your books illustrated?
Nightmare and By My Side aren't illustrated. These are longer books of around 6-7,000 words. But the 'very high-low' books which are only around 600 words, are fully illustrated. My titles are: Red Handed, Straw Men and Kicked into Touch. I've been so fortunate in having the illustrators Kev Hopwood (http://www.kevhopgood.com/) and Amit Tayal (http://www.amittayal.com/) providing the illustrations – two brilliant illustrators and artists
They look fantastic. I've read both these books and can promise readers that Nightmare is just as scary as the cover looks, and By My Side had me in tears.
Are all of your books for reluctant readers, fiction?
I've written one non-fiction book for Badger Learning, called How to Spend Like a Celebrity.
So there was lots of research, and then it was a matter of getting the information across in a way that would grab the reader, and allow them to read at ease. The book is very colourful with photographs and illustrations.
So what's in the pipeline now?
My sixth book, Kicked into Touch, illustrated by Kev Hopgood again is due out in January as part of another new series by Badger Learning – Dark Reads II. All the stories in this series are based around Shakespeare's stores - but brought bang up to date. My Kicked into Touch is based around Macbeth.
I'm hoping then to get more invitations to try to write further high-low books, so I'll have my eye on my emails! Additionally, I'm writing articles for various magazines, working on two longer adult novels, and bringing some earlier children's adventure stories out as ebook box sets.
You really are busy Ann. I hope you'll visit my blog again and tell us all about writing for magazines.
Thanks for dropping by, Ann. :)