Often, when a family member, friend, or acquaintance learns that you are a children’s writer they comment back, “I’ve always wanted to be a children’s writer,” or “I’ve written a children’s book too”. As a seasoned member of the KidLit community you will want to be helpful and encouraging while still providing realistic and practical advice and information.
The following blog is a post that you can share with folks you meet who want to become children’s book writers. Share it as a way to kick-start their writing journey and provide them with the first step information every writer needs to move from thinking about being a children’s writer to becoming a children’s writer.
Becoming a Children’s Author
The dream of becoming a children’s author is a wonderful bubble that floats into the heads and hearts of many creative people. The trick is to take that dream and make it a reality.
There are three key first steps that every dreamer needs to take in order to kick start their writing journey and move it from a thinking about phase to a doing phase.
The first step to becoming a children’s author is to write.
This may seem like common sense, but this is the point where many writing dreams sit stagnant. Aspiring writers may think about a story, and have a desire to be a writer, but often they will not take the time to sit down and put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.
To become a published writer you have to sit down and write. It can’t be on a whim or as a hobby. It has to be a real endeavor. Until you decide to make writing a priority, everything and anything - kids, family, chores, appointments, friends - can and will derail your efforts and interrupt your progress. Think of writing as a job that requires your undivided time and attention.
To put true intention into your writing ambition, layer measurable goals into your dream:
- Commit to Writing a Set Number of Hours per Week or Day
- Set Aside an Entire Day(s) A Week for Writing
- Commit to Writing a Set Number of Words or Chapters per Week or Day
For help setting your writing goals check out the posts under the Writing Goals section of the 24 Carrot blog archives.
Step 2: Find Your Tribe
Writing can be a very solitary business. You’re not working for a company. There is no boss or co-worker. It is you alone with a laptop or a notebook. BUT you cannot work in a vacuum. You will need a group of fellow writers on your journey for the following reasons:
- Constructive & Qualified Feedback: Although you can share your writing with a spouse, parents, kids or friends, your writing will need honest, qualified, and constructive feedback. This is the type of feedback you can only get from other writers. Finding a trusted group of fellow writers and building a critique group will be essential to your writing journey.
- Support and Encouragement: This is a tough business. Most manuscripts will be rejected multiple times before they find publishing success and many authors will tell you that their first manuscripts were never published, but rather it was their eighth picture book, or second or third novel that found publishing success. You will need support from other folks in the trenches during this time.
There are some practical ways to find your writing tribe. For example:
- Join a Professional Writing Organization
- The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI): An international professional organization for authors and illustrators of children’s books. https://www.scbwi.org/
- Seek Out Local Writing Groups
- Follow Writer Created Blogs and Facebook Groups
- 24 Carrot Writing: A weekly blog and Facebook group designed to help writer’s set goals and explore the craft of writing. http://www.24carrotwriting.com/
- KidLit411: An online site that organizes articles, blog posts, interviews and information about writing and illustrating for children in one spot. http://www.kidlit411.com/
- Writers’ Rumpus: A site that shares ideas, tips, news, and information of interest to children’s writers and with the wider children’s publishing community. https://writersrumpus.com/
- Participate in Online Writing Challenges
- Storystorm: Annual challenge in January that encourages picture book writers to create a picture book idea every day in the month of January. The challenge provides online support from industry professionals. https://taralazar.com/storystorm/
- Julie Hedlund’s 12x12 Challenge: Annual challenge with registration in December and January that challenges picture book writers to draft 12 manuscripts in 12 months. The challenge provides an online community, webinars, and support from industry professionals. http://12x12challenge.com/
- National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo): Challenge takes place in November and offers online support and local writing events. https://nanowrimo.org/
Engage in the community of writers in order to find valuable critique partners and a support system. For more help finding a writing tribe, check out the posts under the Writing Community section of the 24 Carrot blog archives.
There is a difference between reading a book as a reader for enjoyment and entertainment and reading a book as writer. Readers will enjoy a book, while writers will study why a book was enjoyable. In order to become a published writer, you need to read like a writer.
There are three primary reasons why writers read in their genre:
- To Study the Writing & Find Mentor Texts: Books that are examples of strong writing will become your guides as you hone your writing skills and work through your own manuscripts.
- To Understand the Market: It is important to understand what books are currently on the shelves so that you can understand what editors and booksellers are looking for, and also to be sure your manuscript is original. You will want to be able to identify where your own writing will fit and also how it is offering something fresh and new. To do this you will need to read currently published books in your genre.
- To Find Comp Titles: When it comes time to present your work to an agent or editor, they will ask you to name a few recently published titles that can guide them in understanding how your manuscript fits with the current market. In order to be able to name comparable titles, you will need to be well read on current books in the market.
For more help becoming a writer who reads, check out the posts under the Read section of the 24 Carrot blog archives.
If you have been thinking about becoming a children’s writer take these first steps.
Write, Find a Tribe, and Read.
Good Luck on your journey!