Tuesday, September 6, 2005

The Steps to Writing for Children

Writing for children is always fun, often difficult, and sometimes gratifying. Let me suggest some steps for getting started.

Step one should be to learn all about the kind of children's writing you would like to do. If it is picture books, for example, read every picture book you can get your hands on. Whether it is picture books, middle grade, young adult or magazines, you will want to know what is out there, what sells. Take classes if you can. There are some excellent resources for learning children's writing, some of them online. Take advantage of local writing classes when they are offered.

Step two should be getting started. Develop an idea, plot, characters, and get them down on paper. Rework them until your story and your words are perfect.

Step three is to join a critique group either online or in your town. Have your manuscript critiqued. Read the critiques and then set them aside while you think about the suggestions. When you come back to them read them again. Do you agree with any of the critiques? If so, how could you change your story, using those suggestions, to improve it? Make the corrections. Set your manuscript aside and let it rest for at least one month. When you come back to it ask yourself if it is the best it can be? If so move on to the next step.

Step four find a market to submit your manuscript to. This will require checking market books, publisher catalogues, magazine sample copies, etc. Pick a market that is a perfect fit. Send for the publisher's guidelines. If you are writing for magazines see if you need the publisher's theme list. Follow the guidelines. If a query letter is required make it a good one.

Step five is writing your cover letter, addressing an envelope and a self-addressed envelope (SASE), and printing a pristine copy of your manuscript. Sign the letter, fold letter and manuscript together neatly, put a stamp on the SASE, and put everything in the submission envelope. Attach a postage stamp and put the submission in the mail.

WAIT A MINUTE! YOU AREN'T DONE YET.

Step six is very important! Set up a system of records for your submissions and record your first submission in those records. You might need a Market Record to show everything you submit to a particular market, the editor's name, response time, etc. You will also want to make a Submission Record to show everything you have submitted, when, where, response time, and result. Sadly, you will probably need a Manuscript Record to show where your manuscript has been and how long. For explanation see last paragraph of this article.

Step seven is to go back to step two and start over with a new story, new plot and new characters and follow all the steps again. *Note: Step one should be ongoing for your writing life. WARNING: Do not sit around waiting for the mailman to bring a response to your submission. If it is rejected you will be devasted unless you are working on your next project.

Actually there is a good chance your manuscript will be rejected, but that doesn't mean it isn't good. The world's greatest writers have all experienced rejections. It often means it wasn't what the publisher was looking for at that time. (More about rejections another time.)A few tears are allowed but then you must pull yourself together, you have work to do. Indulge in a piece of chocolate and then move on. Repeat steps four and five, and then go back to your writing.

(c)2005 Sharon A. Soffe

2 comments:

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Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Hi Sharon,
I got the link to your blog through my local SCBWI chapter. (At the moment, I've let my subscription flag, but I'm actually fine with that at this time.) At this time, I'm a writer who's going through a self-imposed apprenticeship period which means that I'm trying to rectify the wallowing of my twenties in which I complained that I had writer's block. The block really was in thinking that I dare not write anything that wasn't publish-worthy.

At any rate, I'm glad to have found your blog, and will check back from time to time. By the way, I see you've been hit by spammers. If you don't want to turn the word verification feature on, you can post-date an entry along the lines of "Spammers Post Here." Since spammers always go to the most recent entry, this directs unsavory traffic to one spot. Of course, you have a lumbersome post on top of your page, but in the event this remedy helps, I'm passing it along.