Thursday, February 10, 2005

When To Make the Leap

It’s a question I get asked fairly often: When should I make the leap into the writing world? Often the person who asks this question has never been published. Or when should I make the leap to full-time writing? The person asking this question may have been published a bit and they are asking going into it full-time.

It’s an easy question to ask but often I ask one in return: Do you really want to learn the answer? Are you willing to devote time and energy to learn and grow in your ability to write? I’ve found some people who are able and willing to roll up their shirt sleeves and dive into this world. Others aren’t.

For me, it’s kind of like going to the car mechanic and saying, “I’ve been thinking about being a car mechanic. I don’t have any training or information about it. It sounds like fun. When should I start?”

Sounds a little ridiculous huh? Yet people regularly approach the idea of writing in this fashion. For example, let’s consider children’s books.  Moms and Dads have stacks of these short children’s books which they read to their kids. Some of these parents are amazing storytellers and very animated and creative in their approach.  They decide to write a children’s book. It’s got to be simple right? Wrong. Children’s writers who practice their craft work long hours selecting the perfect words for their book. They have to do so because they only have a few words to use in the book. This type of selection is particularly critical in the picture books with only 24 or 32 pages and a tightly woven story.

Recently some writer used my submission form at Right-Writing and said something like, “I wrote a children’s book. How do I get it published?”  I didn’t answer this question. I had no idea where to begin to ask the questions:

Who was the audience? Did you have an audience in mind when you wrote it? Which age group? Is it for the Christian marketplace or the general marketplace? Educational or inspirational?

The children’s market is highly segmented. A board book for ages 0 to 2 is completely different in focus and shape than a picture book for ages 3–5. If you are going to write these types of books are you willing to learn the publishing distinctions then shape your work to fit the editor’s expectations? If not, then please don’t bother sending out your manuscript because you are simply going to waste your postage and be a part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

Children’s books are a lot of fun and I’ve written my fair share of them. I hope to write some more in the days ahead but I definitely go into the marketplace with my eyes wide open about the necessity of meeting an editor’s need. I don’t simply open a blank file and begin to write. The field is much more complicated and involved.

If you are interested in children’s writing, I recommend you begin exploring Jill Esbaum’s exploring some basic tips. She’s got some terrific beginning tips and you will see that your journey in this area has only started. Like almost any type of writing, it will involve focusing on the particular audience, understanding that audience and market, then writing appropriate material for that market.

And if you’re wondering about what I have to say about making the leap to full-time writing?  In my next entry, I’m going to focus on this question with some tips and insight into the writing life.


1 Comment:

At 9:10 AM, Blogger Sarah Anne Sumpolec Left a note...

great topic- I meet so many people that as soon as they discover I'm a writer, they launch into telling me about the book they want to write - particularly children's books. Fact is, a lot of people talk about writing but don't do a lot of writing...


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