Writing a Children’s Magazine Story: A Basic Check List

This checklist has some of the basic elements needed for writing a magazine story for children.

  • MAIN CHARACTER: Will your readers LIKE the main character? Is your main character (protagonist) too “perfect” or did you give your protagonist a “wart” or flaw? Is your character believable to children?
  • THEME: The theme is the main idea or message developed in your story. It’s what your story is about. Is your theme universal and age appropriate? Is your story too preachy? Does the plot, or what happens in the story, follow the thread of your theme from beginning to end? Did you avoid going off on “rabbit trails” (another theme or two)? It’s important to stick with only ONE theme all the way through or you may confuse the young reader with mixed messages.
  • CONFLICT: Is your character’s conflict or challenge age appropriate? Is it resolved by the protagonist without an adult taking over?
  • SHOW DON’T TELL: Are you using dialogue when you can to “show” what happens through the actions and reactions of the characters? There are very few illustrations in a magazine story. Your words must create “illustrations” in the readers mind.
  • BEGINNING: Is the main character’s conflict or challenge introduced within the first few paragraphs to “hook” the reader?
  • MIDDLE: Does the problem intensify and build in a series of several episodes (usually three), each one more difficult than the the last?
  • ENDING: Is the problem resolved in a way that will not disappoint the reader? Is the ending satisfying? Has the character grown in some way or had a “come to realize” moment?
  • FACT CHECK: Are your facts correct for fiction and non-fiction?
  • FINAL MANUSCRIPT: Did you check the spelling and grammar? Is your story presented in proper manuscript format? Did you follow the magazine publisher’s guidelines? Did you stay within the word count? If they accept simultaneous submissions and you’re sending it to several publishers, did you mention that at the end of your cover letter?

Read a stack of your favorite children’s magazines and familiarize yourself with the kinds of stories, rebuses, poems, and non-fiction they like to publish. Hopefully, what you write will be a perfect fit because you studied the magazine and checked off your list! Happy writing!

Copyright 2008 Sheryl Ann Crawford


6 responses to “Writing a Children’s Magazine Story: A Basic Check List

  1. nancysanders

    Wow, Sherri, this checklist says it all. I’m printing it out as a reminder!

  2. Sherri Crawford

    Nancy, you’re printing it out? Wow! That’s so cool. I hope this list helps writers to focus on the important aspects of writing for magazines. We know it’s not easy but it’s so rewarding. Thank you for the nice comment (o:

  3. Marjorie Flathers

    This is an excellent checklist, Sherri. It really points up the difference between an ok story and a terrific one! Good job….and thanks!

  4. gloriastockstill

    Sherri, this a great list! I agree with Nancy. I am going to print it out.


  5. marilyn donahue

    Hey, I’m printing it out, too. It’s full of good advice — things we so often forget to check . Thanks, Sherri!


  6. Shirley Shibley

    Sherri, this is fantastic, and should be sent to writers’ magazines! I’ll print this out too.

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