Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Writing Easy Readers - Or How to Get 2nd Graders to Love You

Early reader chapter books – I’ve written more than a dozen. Thought I’d share a few writing tips on how I made mine successful.

Be specific.

What I want to convey: The main character, Tray, spots the same old stray cat messing up the flowerbed.

What I wrote: “Old Gray’s back,” Tray said, peering out at the scraggly gray cat squatting in the flowerbed.

See what I did? First off, I gave the cat a name. It tells the reader that the cat has been in the yard so many times that the family has nicknamed him. And I gave the cat an action. I have him “squatting” in the flowerbed. That word alone suggests what the cat is actually doing in the flowerbed.


We all use them. Kids love them. Similes are the perfect “showing” technique. They provide a gage that helps the reader visualize the object.

Here are a few of mine:

The cat stayed right in the middle of Mom’s prize roses, flinging dirt like a raging bull.
His head felt like a balloon losing air. I can’t pass out!
The dumpsters were lined up like train cars. 

These are just fun.

Two glassy green eyes peered out.

He soon transformed – flesh to fur – and ready to end this thing for good.

No way he’d ever potty in the petunias.
Sentence Structure

It’s important to mix it up and keep the tale far from the dreaded telling, telling, telling… Occasional sentence fragments are fine. And throw in a POV question here or there.

Be playful.

One technique I use is interrupting the sentence with a one or two word thought or sound.

Just when he thought he couldn’t draw another breath – pah! – he spit up a furball.
He licked his lips – Yum! – then set it down.
He jumped over the fence, rounded the corner and – CRACK! – butted heads with Mouser.

As usual, you’ll want to keep exclamation marks at a minimum. But with this age group, you’re allowed a few extra.

So there you have it. The next time you sit down to write a chapter book, I hope my examples are useful.


  1. I enjoyed the post ... :)
    But, please, 'losing' not 'loosing'...

  2. Thanks, Ruth! I changed it. :)

  3. Very useful. Thanks, Dotti. I just subscribed and am looking forward to reading your blog.

  4. There's been some discussion in the Facebook 12X12 in 2012 group about easy readers, so I passed this blog post on as a link. I am sure many (including me!) will benefit from these terrific tips. Thank you!