Thursday, April 23, 2009


You want to write for children. You are so eager you can almost taste it, as the saying goes. But where do you start? You start just like a child learning to walk. You start with baby steps.

Oh sure, I know that you are scared. We were all fearful at first. Frightened you will make a fool of yourself. Afraid of rejection. Terrified of failure. So how do you get over that? Baby steps.

Remember perfection comes with training and practice. All writers get rejections, no one is exempt. Rejections can’t really hurt you unless you let them. Be glad you don’t have to take that rejection face to face. The postal service is a wonderful buffer. As for failure, will never succeed if you don’t try.

Baby Step One: Training. Take a course in writing. Then read everything you
can get your hands on about writing, especially about writing for children. Read children’s literature, all you can find. If you can’t afford to buy books, go to the library. Visit writing chat rooms on the Internet. Some are a good source of information and support. The ICL chat room is tops, especially the Scheduled chats and Open Forums. Use them. Join a group of local writers for support.

Baby Step Two: Practice what you read. Write, write, and write some more. If you are really unsure of yourself, start small. Write about what you know. Write poems, or puzzles, or recipes, or craft instructions. If that doesn’t interest you write short articles or stories. Apply your training, and reading to what you write. Rewrite it and make it as good as you possibly can.

Baby Step Three: Check the writers markets, and guidelines to find a place where it will fit. Then address an envelope to the publisher, and include a stamped self addressed envelope (SASE) for their reply if they request it. To save on postage, ask them to recycle your manuscript. You don’t want to send a dog-eared copy to the next publisher. Use a code on your SASE to let you know what manuscript it is for. Some rejection notices will not indicate the title of the piece that they are rejecting. You may end up not knowing what was rejected. Check your manuscript over for spelling, punctuation, typos, etc. Then if you are sure it is as good as you can make it, put it in the envelope.

Baby Step Four: Keep a record of your submission. The date you sent it, editor, publisher, title, ERT (estimated reply time), date returned, and response. You can keep this record on paper or in your computer, whichever you prefer. Once that is done, seal the envelope, add postage, and mail it!!! Take a deep breath now. Don’t hyperventilate. I promise you are going to be alright.

Baby Step Five: Start your next project. What?? You heard me. You don’t
want to sit around stressing about the manuscript you just sent, do you? It may be a long wait until that editor sends you a response. This is what nervous breakdowns and depressions are all about. Take another deep breath, exhale slowly, and start writing.

I would recommend that you not spend time hanging around the mailbox. At a
time like this you may be a little irrational. Your mailperson can sense this. This has a tendency to make postal workers very nervous. They have their own stresses to deal with. Remember some states have laws against stalking. I am sure your mailperson can explain this to you. Keep in mind, the waiting is probably not his/her fault. Editors are very busy.

Baby Step Six: The big day arrives. The envelope please. Open it carefully, paper cuts are painful. Take another of those deep breaths. Now look.....ahhhh its a form letter. Rejection! Now wait, you are not going to take this personally. You knew you would have to face this some day. Chances are the note will not say much about the reason for the rejection. It probably says something vague, like doesn’t fit our present needs. They are seldom specific. Assume they didn’t have room for it, or perhaps they just published a similar story. Take your manuscript out and read it. Does anything jump out at you screaming change me? If so make the change and go on to baby step seven.

Baby Step Seven: Find another publisher, address two more envelopes, and if
necessary print another manuscript copy. Record it in your submissions record. Mail it again. Baby steps remember. Now go back to that second manuscript that you have been working on and finish it. These steps are to be repeated, again and again.

Walking is learning to put one foot in front of the other, and then doing that over
and over again. Never stop learning. Never stop reading about writing. Never stop reading children’s books. Never stop practicing your craft. Never stop writing. Certainly, never stop submitting. Take those deep breaths, lean on a writing friend, and trudge on. You can do it! With practice comes success. With success will come confidence.

That’s it. Little baby steps. See now you’re walking!

P.S. I realize that step six might have been an acceptance. That’s wonderful, but don’t get too cocky. Rejection is inevitable. Hold on to these instructions, just in case.
(c)2009 Sharon A. Soffe

1 comment:

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Wonderful how you broke it down into the baby steps! Writers can become so overwhelmed. But success is build on small successes...

L. Diane Wolfe