When I wanted to start writing children’s books, I didn’t know much about it except that I loved the books I read to my son. When I decided to take the leap to actually start writing books, I found some amazing resources to help guide my path. If you’re brand-new to kidlit (or thinking about giving it a try), here are some great places to start.
Harold Underdown’s Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books
When I picked up this book, I knew next to nothing about writing and publishing children’s books. When I was done, I had a solid foundation about the industry that allowed me to absorb more from other resources I later read. This book will give you the basics of terminology, age categories, writing, revising, submitting, and publishing. And, even if you’re starting from zero–like I was–it won’t make you feel like an idiot (despite the name). Harold Underdown’s website is also a wealth of information.
As the Complete Idiot’s Guide (and every other book, blog, resource) will counsel you…you need to join SCBWI. That’s the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. If you’re new to writing kidlit, you might feel there isn’t a benefit to you, or worse, that you shouldn’t be there because you aren’t a “real” writer. But you would be wrong! SCBWI is an incredibly welcoming community of writers and illustrators all at different points in their creative careers. An annual membership will run you about $100 and will gain you access to: 1) The Book: Essential Guide to Publishing for Children, which will help you better understand the market for children’s books, 2) local events and seminars where you can meet other writers and learn about the craft, 3) webinars at reduced prices, 4) contests to gain feedback on your writing from literary agents, 5) lots of other cool stuff. Just join already!
KidLit 411 is another amazing collection of resources. From their website, it includes:
Topical Pages – links to articles and resources organized by topics
Author & Illustrator Spotlights – each week, we feature an author or an illustrator, who share their experience with you. Each spotlight usually comes with a book giveaway.
The Weekly 411 – each week, we compile the new links that were added during the week in an update post. You can receive this by email by subscribing to email updates.
As a companion to KidLit 411, the group organized a Facebook page where writers can swap manuscripts and act as critique partners. If you’re having trouble finding critique partners in your local area (or are just tired of getting feedback from the same people), posting here can get you lots of willing readers/critiquers who will give you encouragement and suggestions to improve your manuscript. If you’re new to critique, this can also be a non-intimidating way to dip your toe into the critique world and realize it’s not so bad after all.
Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books
Susanna Hill’s website is chock-full of great information, writing contests, and wonderful advice and encouragement. I especially love her Perfect Picture Books page, which is a great way for picture book writers to understand what books have been recently published on similar themes to their manuscripts’.
I resisted Twitter for a long time–mostly out of stubbornness. As I wrote more, I realized that not being on Twitter meant missing out on a lot of great interaction with other writers. Even if you’re brand new to Twitter, you can set up a profile, follow kidlit writers, and start learning more about the craft and business of children’s books. Twitter is also home to events like PitMad where writers pitch their work to agents and editors. Even if you’re not ready to pitch, reading through pitches can inspire you and help you learn about what writers are creating and how the industry is responding.
Critique groups and your fellow writers
Books and online groups are great, but they are no substitute for working with fellow writers in person. They can encourage you, understand your setbacks, tell you about opportunities, and give you fresh perspectives on your manuscripts. If you can’t find a critique group, make one! Through the Facebook group for my local SCBWI chapter, I put out a call for writers interested in forming a group and had our first meeting scheduled within a week. Meeting other writers might feel intimidating when you’re just starting out, but nothing will keep you writing longer (or better) than having a community.
What resources have helped guide you in your career as a writer?