Writing Tips for Adults...

    Here are a few tips to help you in your dream of becoming a published writer, direct from Darleen herself:

    1. READ, READ, READ-- as silly as this sounds, many people who want to write for kids are NOT reading kid's books. You MUST read to see what today's kids are reading.
    2. Make notes of the books you really like. What is it about these books that make them stand out?  What do you like about them?  Who is the publisher? Keep a record so that you will soon find a pattern of the types of books you enjoy the most and the publishers of these books.
    3. Type in manuscript format the books you really enjoy so you can see how they are put together. Look at the sentence structure. Look at the way the author used words to create a scene. Notice the transitions between paragraphs and pages, the rhythm and pacing. STUDY the text of these books, the characterization, the voice. 
    4. WRITE, WRITE, WRITE-- yes, as silly as this sounds, so many people I meet talk about writing books, but they never actually write them. Put your pen where your mouth is. Get started! Don't wait until everything in your life gets perfect-- the kids grown, the bills paid off, the 'this' or 'that' taken care of--because if you're waiting for things to get straightened out before you tackle writing your book, you may never start. Life is a journey and so is writing. 
    5. Join the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, known as SCBWI. This is an international organization catering to the needs of both beginning and veteran children's writers and illustrators.

      In Oklahoma, where I live, we have a spring conference and a fall workshop. Click here for more information: Oklahoma Chapter of SCBWI.

      Click here for more information on upcoming events hosted by the international chapter of SCBWI.  
    6. Attend writer's conferences/festivals to mix-and-mingle with like-minded people. If you want to be a writer or illustrator, then you need to meet other people who share your same dream. By attending these types of meetings, you'll also be learning more about your craft, picking up tips from the pros, sharing ideas, and meeting editors and art directors to whom you can submit your manuscripts/art portfolios.
    7. Realize that writing a book and becoming an author/illustrator is a process. Oh sure, there's a few Cinderella stories out there of overnight successess, but those are few and far between. The average author/illustrator must put in many, many years of learning their craft and perfecting their work before they become successful. So don't be in a hurry--take your time and learn your craft--don't be 'seeking publication as quick as possible' but be 'seeking to learn more about your craft as you go along.' 

      Also, I run into beginning writers who seem to have stars in their eyes that they will become rich and famous on their books. But the reality is, writing books for children doesn't pay that much. Most authors earn 10% off the cover price of their books and only 5% off the cover price of picture books. And the royalties go down even further for paperback books!

      My editor said that the first thing she tells new writers is, "Get a job!" because writers need a job to support their love of writing. Most children's authors I know, even those with 20+ books, still must do public speaking or hold down a job to support themselves.
    8. With the above mentioned reality check, don't forget to study the review journals. These are the journals that book buyers and librarians use when buying books.  Some review journals that are well recognized are: Publisher's Weekly, School Library Journal, Kirkus, and there are many others. Read these journals, study the reviews, see what's hot and what's not.  It's up to you to do your homework because nobody else is going to do it for you!
    9. A great resource for beginning writers is the Children's Writers Market. This book is updated every year and is like a Bible for beginning writers.  There are many, many other great resources available. Also, if you think you're ready for an agent, there are books that list children's agents. BUT--don't be in a hurry to acquire an agent. Make sure your writing is the best it can be before submitting to agents or publishers.
    10. Don't give up. If you dream of being a writer or illustrator, keep your dream alive. Yes, you may have to have a job to support yourself. You many not instantly get rich and famous. You may never get rich and famous. But if it's your dream, your love, then follow your heart.  True success is not measured by money or fame, but by peace and happiness and knowing that you are doing what you love. Do you love writing? Do you love the process? Then go for it!