As a children’s book writer, you can and will get published — but you must stay the course! These ways to increase your creativity and motivation will give you the edge over thousands of writers also trying to get published…they’re from Sue Douglass Fliess, who refused to give up until she found a publisher for her children’s picture books.
“If you are at your wit’s end and ready to quit, I dare you,” says Fliess. “I dare you to quit. I ask you to say out loud – maybe even to the mirror, ‘I am not a writer and refuse to write another word.’ I bet you can’t. Sometimes that’s the only reality check writers need – realizing writing is inside them, driving them, a force within that cannot be contained.”
Is your writing a force that cannot be contained? Are you determined to get your children’s book (or any book!) published? Dive into Fliess’s writing tips – and keep reading books about how to get published, such as How to Write a Children’s Picture Book: Learning from..Where the Wild Things Are..Good Night Moon, and Other Favorite Stories.
Getting Your Children’s Book Published – 4 Ways to Get Creative and Motivated
Guest Post – Sue Douglass Fliess
1. Got writer’s block? Try observing closely and eavesdropping. We’ve all been there — we position our coffee next to the computer, put our buttocks in the seat, boot up the laptop which has been waiting for words of wisdom to be splattered upon it…and then we stop. We stop because we are dry. We have no good ideas. We can’t bear to open up that novel that is in its second revision. We aren’t going to sell and publish that manuscript anyway, so why don’t we go for a walk…
To solve writer’s block, I go for that walk – or drive. But I will go somewhere interesting, where I just might hear something amazing pour out of someone’s mouth. I write children’s books; when I was stuck while writing a young adult novel, I went to Taco Bell. At lunch. When all the high school kids go. I sat off to the side and listened to many conversations going on at once. I watched the way they held their cell phones, what they were wearing, etc. One teenage boy jokingly insulted another and voila, I had the voice of my main character’s friend. I still had a lot of work to do, but once I heard his voice in my head, the character developed almost on his own. Writers, put yourselves in a position to learn, absorb and get ideas. And, writer’s block be gone!
2. Write what you know. Anything else will feel forced. I write children’s picture books, about shoes, dresses and trucks, time-outs, princesses and pirates. I have two young boys (5 and 7 years old) and I help in their classrooms, where I am surrounded by other young girls and boys. My world right now is my kids. I get at least one new idea for a story each week from them. And this year, my older son really became a proficient reader, so I find myself writing longer stories that might suit him. When I tackle a middle grade or young adult, I must tap into my 12 year old or 15 year old self and draw on my own memories. When I start writing from a place that is true to myself, my writing is better. I’m not winging it, and it does not feel forced, it feels real. Hopefully it will be real to the reader.
3. Be Persistent: submit, submit, submit! One writer’s email tagline I saw a long time ago read: “Success is 90% persistence and 10% luck.” Of course, you have to have talent too! But there are a LOT of good writers out there. So, once you’ve established you are a good writer, you need to put your name out there. And one way to do this is to submit work to editors until they know you. Once an editor told me, “I never bought anything from this one very talented writer who submitted something new to me almost weekly, but let me tell you, when I got that letter, I knew who she was.” That’s the persistence part. Keep it up, and your work will eventually land on the desk of the one editor who says, “Oh! I’ve been fantasizing about buying a dystopian novel with herbivore zombies!”
4. Grow a thick skin and never give up hope. Overall, the biggest writing motivator for me has been hope. There was one day, though, that was probably a pivotal moment in my writing career. My husband walked in the room as I was opening one of my many rejection letters – you know, the thin self-addressed stamped #10 envelope kind – and disappointment washed over his face. He said, in the nicest way he knew how, “How much longer do you think you’ll do this?” He couldn’t stand to see my hopes dashed on a weekly basis, and I love him for that. But, I looked at him like he had six heads and answered, “Until I sell something, of course!” And he never asked me again. What it made me realize was that a) I had become used to the rejections – don’t get me wrong, even as a published author with a literary agent, rejection still stings and b) I was more determined to get published than even I realized. It was still a year more before I received my first children’s book contract. But how sweet it was to get that offer!
I cling to the hope that I will finish the story I am writing and be proud of it. Hope that I will send it off and an editor will fall in love with it; then hope that the editor who loves it will get approval to make it into a real book. Hope that one day, that book will touch one life, open one child’s eyes, and make one child smile.
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Sue Douglass Fliess is the author of three forthcoming children’s books, Shoes for Me, A Dress for Me, (Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books) and Tons of Trucks (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books). She lives in northern California with her husband, two boys and their guinea pig, Mocha.