Advice for Children's Writers
©2018 by Kim Norman
Congratulations on your new endeavor! I can't think of any greater way to spend my time than writing for children. I love books in general, children's books especially. I don't think I realized that until I came back to children's books when my own kids were small.
I can offer you some generic advice to get you started. There is an amazing wealth of info out there now online without your ever having to spend a penny on books, although I do think it's nice to have a few reference materials on your bookshelves. Nothing like having a nice solid book to thumb thru!
Before I recommend reference materials and organizations, here's the biggest bit of advice: read read read! Read every type of children's book you can get your hands on. (I've been known to check out a stack of children's books, stuff them in a canvas bag, then walk next door to the YMCA, hang the book on the bicycle handle and peddle away, happily flipping thru picture books. Even lost some weight that way!)
But seriously, reading will help you to narrow the type of book you'd like to write. You'll probably find that the type of book you enjoy reading will also be the type of book you're most naturally drawn to writing -- although not exclusively. Reading lots of books will hone your ear for sentence structure, vocabulary level, pacing, etc. A hint about picture books: read them aloud, to yourself even, if you don't have a small child handy. Since picture books are often designed to be read aloud, the pacing of the language needs sound good read aloud.
Are you a member of the SCBWI? (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) They're at www.scbwi.org
They have conferences, literature & a newsletter for their members that I've found invaluable -- as well as the contacts one makes eventually. I used a free download of theirs which helped me with the contract language with Sterling. Stuff like that is only available to members, but they've got other useful stuff on the site that non-members can peruse.
It was at an SCBWI conference that I met my editor, who liked the manuscript I submitted. After a couple of revisions, she bought it. I'm told that's still relatively rare, but it does happen -- or, at least, you meet and begin to build a relationship with an editor who might buy ANOTHER of your manuscripts. They also help members form critique groups. Critiques are SO important to writers who want to be published. Even seasoned pros like Jane Yolen (over 350 books in print!) have critique groups.
Next, check out my friend Rachelle Burk's RESOURCES FOR CHILDREN'S WRITERS. Hundreds of helpful links there to everything you ever wanted to know about children's writing, from grammar help to writing advice to help composing your query letter.
There are a few books you might want to buy:
The Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market, published by Writer's Digest Books
A new one comes out every year with listings of hundreds of children's book and magazine publishers, as well as advice articles. I think it's quite a good book. I don't buy one every year now, since I know more about the industry and the types of publishers I should approach with my manuscripts, but it's a great place to start. A little overwhelming at first, so you'll also want to poke around libraries and bookstores, observing books that are similar to the type you'd like to write. That will give you the name of publishers who do the sorts of books you're interested in.
Another book I found very helpful:
The Business of Writing for Children
by Aaron Shepard
Short and to the point. Told me some stuff I hadn't heard anywhere else
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books
by Harold D. Underdown
Quite comprehensive. Actually, Harold hangs out on the above-mentioned CW Yahoo chat list, so you can probably ask him questions directly. He'd be thrilled to know you were reading and asking questions directly from his book. He's a really good guy, very generous with free advice.
If you're interest is picture books, check out my colleague, Linda Ashman's ebook: The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books. Great resource and idea builder!
If you write in rhyme:
I'm a huge fan of Renee LaTulippe's "Lyrical Language Lab" where she reads poems and rhyming picture book texts explaining BRILLIANTLY what works and doesn't work. (And she's always right. Seriously, the woman has such amazing instincts, plus she knows all the big poetry words I can never remember, like "trochee" and "anapest."
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