For Writers

I’ve been approached lately by a lot of folks asking me how to become a writer. Here are some resources I return to over and over again.


On Starting a Writing Habit

The one question I consistently get asked over and over again is, “How do you find the time to write?” The answer is: I don’t. I stumble in my writing all the time. I hit dry spells. Inspiration evades. Time evaporates. But I want to write and to be a writer, so I stake out little bits and pieces of time when I can. And I use these tricks and tools to get back on track and start having fun making things again.


Writing

Writing is a craft, and there are a ton of books out there on it! Despite being (or probably because I am) a librarian, I don’t actually buy very many books. They only get purchased if 1) they aren’t available in my library system, and/or 2) I know I’ll read and reread them over and over again. These are the ones I regularly pull down from my bookshelf.

Outlining and Structure

Plot, Characters, and Story

Revising

Editing and Mechanics


Publishing

If you are interested in publication, then first you need to understand that publishing is a business.

It helps to keep that in mind because then it’s not personal. You’re just selling something and, if people believe they can make money off of it, they will buy it. It’s not an attack on you or your creativity. Just business.

Second, it’s hard to break into publishing. There is no quick shortcut. (Even those “overnight successes” you are thinking of right now probably were working at their writing much longer than you realize.) I personally wrote for about four years before publishing anything. And then, it was a magazine article. Then another. And another. Then a picture book with a teensy publishing house. Then a nonfiction series with an educational publisher. Then, finally – a novel with a traditional publisher. That was fourteen years later. The key is to keep writing. Finish something and move on to the next project. The novel I finally sold? It was the third I had written.

“Research” the Market

You must know what’s currently selling and what kids (and parents) are buying. So read. A lot. Current stuff in the genre you want to publish in. But other stuff, too, because, you know, it’s good for you. And, fun.

Join the Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). It’s invaluable for providing guidance, resources, and a tribe of like-minded friends. I highly, highly recommend it.

Learn more about the business and market and how to submit here:

Wondering if you should self-publish? Or get an agent? Or submit directly to an editor?

Only you can make that call. I want an agent and a traditional publisher because I do not want to sink my limited time into marketing, formatting, negotiating, etc. I want to spend it writing. But you may be different. The only thing I’ll add is that if you’re writing for publication, the money should go in your direction. If someone is asking you to pay fees or put money up front, something is fishy.

Finding an Agent or Editor

As you read all those books, look at the acknowledgements pages of the ones that are like the stuff you write. Those are the editors and houses and agents you should query. Follow them on Twitter. Read their blogs and websites. You can research them in the other direction, too. Use websites like QueryTracker.netAgentQuery.com, and PublishersMarketplace.com to find editors and agents, then seek out the books they have worked on. Yes, it’s overwhelming. But remember, you are looking for a business partner.


Writing for Yourself

Finally, you are a writer even if you never write for publication. So I hope you do write just for the fun of it sometimes. For your own entertainment. To figure out what you think about something. Or just to play around. Personally, I’m fond of keeping notebooks and fiddling with pictures and words.


Happy writing,

Beck