After we moved back to the U.S., I decided it was time to dust of a dream to write children’s books. So I started writing.
I found a writing group and regaled them with my 1000 plus word "picture book," with about 50 main characters (that's a bit of an exaggeration) and lots of description.
Suffice it to say, I shelved that story and started writing others. I thought I’d hit gold when my manuscripts started getting better reactions, so I started sending out queries—to agents and publishers.
AAAAAARGH!!!!! Here’s a few things I wish I would have done (and actually some I did) before ever sending my name out into the publishing world.
- Chances are you want to write because you have a story idea. Write it down and then hold onto it.
- Read Harold Underdown’s, The Complete Idiots Guide to Publishing Children's Books.
- Join a writing group. You can find your own or find one that’s already established. Groups like SCBWI can hook you up with a writing group and get you started in understanding the industry.
- Speaking of SCBWI, The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, look them up, join them if you can and take advantage of all they have to offer.
- Become familiar with the books in the genre you want to write in. Read picture books if you want to do picture books (same for Middle Grade or Young Adult), non-fiction if you want to do non-fiction, fantasy if you want to fantasy, etc.
- Join sites like Verla Kay, the Writers Digest, The Children’s Book Council, or any number of others.
- Sometimes publishing houses or agents have their own website, blog, face book, etc. If there’s a publisher or agent you especially like, follow them.
- Write and write some more and don’t worry if it's a heaping pile of manure. Even a stinky idea can be good fertilizer for future growth, and there’s something to be said about getting your original voice down before you start listening to another’s.
- Talk to librarians, bookstore clerks, children, teachers. See what they love in children’s lit, what is current and what they would like to see. But don’t let that peg you in if you have an idea that doesn’t fit.
- Observe children. Listen to them. See how they talk and think and what they fear, love, hate, or desire. See the world as a child for a while and then write something that fills that child with wonder.