by Therese Heckenkamp
Writers all have one thing in common: They write!
That said, I’ll offer what I know, for what it’s worth, and hope it helps!
Write about something that you feel strongly about, because this will come through in the writing, making it compelling for others to read. (And even if it’s never published, at least you will have enjoyed the process.)
What do you like to read? Mystery? Romance? Sci-fi? You’re familiar with the feel of your favorite genre, so write something along the same lines.
Use the all resources available. I can’t emphasize this enough. Resources abound! Live in the library, replace your credit cards with library cards, subscribe to writing magazines, scour the internet. . . For anyone who’s serious about writing well and getting it published, making use of resources is only common sense.
Practice writing by writing. Don’t expect to sell your first piece, or even your second. Writing is about learning the craft, perfecting the talent, art, skill — whatever poetic term you want to call it — it still comes down to hard work! In the same way you can’t sit down at a canvas and paint a masterpiece, don’t expect your first writing to be published.
Follow guidelines. When you do start sending pieces out, don’t — repeat don’t — just pick out a handful of publishers’ addresses and send your manuscript to them! Besides wasting postage (it adds up), stories sent to magazines that don’t publish fiction (no matter how well-written) spotlights you as an amateur too lazy to do research. Also, make sure your material is formatted correctly. This means no handwritten or single-spaced manuscripts. Your work deserves its best chance, so don’t screw up in easily avoidable ways. Don’t tie your manuscript in a fancy ribbon (it happens!) or send scented stationary to catch an editor’s attention — because believe me, you’ll catch it — just not in the way you want.
With common sense and research, you can both narrow and target potential markets considerably. The Writer’s Market provides basic guidelines as to what kinds of material publishers publish, how they want you to contact them (many require merely a query letter before they’ll even look at an unsolicited [un-requested] manuscript). You can also write directly to publishers for their guidelines. But nowadays, you can usually find guidelines almost instantly via the internet.
Send out you manuscript and wait . . . yet don’t wait. Get busy with another project so you can keep your work circulating — thus increasing your output, skills, and chances of being published. Function as a productive writer.
Have hope! Writing is a wonderfully enriching, fulfilling experience — one worth striving for. Your chances of getting published increase with your effort. Getting published isn’t like winning the lottery (even if your “numbers” are finally chosen, don’t count on the money being enough to buy your dream home!), and most writers are content with that. Sharing your words with the world, making a difference in some way, provides a reward all its own.
Recommended Writing Resources:
Children’s Writer’s and Illustrators Market by Writer’s Digest Books
First-Time Authors by The Institute of Children’s Literature
Formatting and Submitting Your Manuscript by Writer’s Digest Books
Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction by Patricia Highsmith
Writing and Selling Your Novel by Jack M. Bickham
Writer’s Market by Writer’s Digest Books
Writing for Young Adults by Sherry Garland
Children’s Writer (the newsletter of writing and publishing trends)
www.scbwi.org Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
www.writermag.com essential resources for writers
www.writersmarket.com markets for your writing
“No one who bothers about originality will ever be original,
whereas if you try simply to tell the truth,
you will, nine times out of ten,
become original without ever having noticed it.”
— C.S. Lewis