Do you want to make 2017 the year you:
The real question is...
What's your target?
We must know our target before we can hit it. So, let's start by being clear about what the target is. (See above list and add your own!)
Then, let's visualize that target as a smallish red circle in the middle of the board. Maybe when we start throwing the dart, we will skewer the wall (yes, it, um, happens), but we will keep aiming and throwing. Soon, we will hit an outside ring, then an inside ring, then after lots of aims and throws, BOOM! we will hit the bullseye!
And it will be sweet.
To help you stay creative and motivated, here are several writing challenges starting in January.
Jan. 1-31 STORYSTORM with Tara Lazar. Formerly known as PiBoIdMo -- create one new story idea each day of the month. Read daily inspiring posts by authors, join a private FB group, and win prizes like books, swag, and agent critiques! Sign up is open now.
Mar. 1- 31 CHAPTER BOOK CHALLENGE (ChaBooCha) with Becky Fyfe -- write the first draft of your early reader, chapter book, MG, or YA novel in a month. Read daily inspiring posts by authors and win prizes.
Mar. 1-31 READING FOR RESEARCH MONTH (REFOREMO) with Carrie Charley Brown -- read and research mentor picture books. Read daily posts about mentor texts, join a private FB group, win prizes. Sign up begins Feb. 15.
May 1 -7 NATIONAL PICTURE BOOK WRITING WEEK (NAPIBOWRIWEE) with Paula Yoo -- write 7 picture book manuscript drafts in one week. Get inspired by authors and win prizes.
2017 PICTURE BOOK READING CHALLENGE - challenge yourself to read over 50 books and keep track with a handy list or a pre-made Bingo board.
My target for 2017 is at least one contract in fiction and one in nonfiction. To maintain my inspiration and prime the creativity pump, I'll jump into Storystorm and REFOREMO and will track my reads on the Bingo board!
What's your target for 2017?
I recently found Tim Fargo on Twitter and appreciate that almost all the quotes he shares resonate with me. This one by Abe spoke to an issue that is rumbling around in the picture book creating community right now: how to move your manuscript from "it's good" to "I'm taking this to acquisition."
Even though (or maybe because) we are living in what some industry experts call a golden age of picture books, competition for space on publishers' lists is fierce. We've seen a rise in sales, a corresponding rise in publisher interest, and deeper conversations about picture books as an important form of literature. All of these factors have contributed to more submissions in the pipeline.
So how do we make our manuscripts stand out?
Moving a manuscript from good to sold takes a lot of axe sharpening.
First, we have to start with an effective manuscript (carefully considered, fresh in concept, revised with a critique group as far as you think is possible).
Then, the real work begins.
Sharpen: if you don't have an agent or even if you do, consider paying for a critique from an industry expert who sells or publishes what you write. Find one through your SCBWI chapter, Kidlit College, Writer's Digest, Twitter kidlit contests, Kidlit411, Rate Your Story, Children's Book Insider/Write For Kids, etc. They are out there.
Sharpen further: try the suggested revision even if you don't think it will work and/or improve the manuscript. Copy the manuscript into a new file called, "It will never work" and just try it. Do NOT dig in your heels at this stage thinking you've already done enough work on this manuscript. The revision that moves the work to acquisition might be next! Transparency alert: this stage is my cryptonite. I certainly recognize the value and I do it, but I start out looking like Grumpy Cat's identical twin.
Sharpen even futher: read the manuscript to a new crop of target audience members. I'm not talking about your writer friends, your family, or your trusted beta readers. (What?! You aren't reading the manuscript to your target audience? Gong!) Notice where their sweet little eyes wander (ooops, need a revision there!) and where their happy little faces engage (huzzah!)
Sharpen even furtherest: compare your latest version to the published book(s) closest in feel, theme, style, etc. to what you want your published book to be. (What?!? You haven't looked for comp titles? Gong!) Really dissect that comp title. Type it out in pages, study it, tape yourself reading it aloud and listen to it. Where do you engage? Lose interest? Revise accordingly.
Is your axe as sharp as it can possibly be?
If so, your manuscript might be ready to submit. I wish you the best of success. Let me know when you get to acquisition.
Feel free to share other sharpening techniques, too.
1. New book launching in 2017? Are you thinking about a book trailer? Do you worry that you don't have the knowledge or expertise to do a great job? Check out this post by Therese Walsh, editor of Writer Unboxed (a stellar blog to follow, BTW) http://writerunboxed.com/2016/12/06/how-to-use-fiverr-to-create-a-book-trailer/
She shares about Fiverr, an amazing resource for all kinds of creative talent that you can contract inexpensively to do what you need done (critiques, logos, book trailers, etc.). Put Fiverr in your quivver of How To Get Stuff Done Without Doing It All Yourself.
2. Manuscript Wish List: if you are a cool kid, you already know about #MSWL and derivitives of it like #MSWL MG and #MSWL PB, but do you know about the Manuscript Wishlist website? What a treasure trove for querying and subbing. Book contracts are all about making the right match at the right time so check this site often.
I chose this image because this post is really about what comes BEFORE a steamy cup o' coffee. This curated content is related to the work we need to accomplish BEFORE submitting to agents.
Start with this fresh post Do I Need an Agent...by Giuseppe Castellano [from his website: Giuseppe Castellano is an award-winning Designer, Illustrator, and Executive Art Director at Penguin Random House; with over seventeen years of book publishing experience]. Even though the post leans slightly toward illustrators, it is a very thorough look at the agent search experience.
Then, investigate In The Inbox which offers online query advice from a smart literary intern. Although she hasn't posted since August (presumably because she is overwhelmed with queries!), there is a wealth of information here including a chart to ensure a query is ready to be sent: https://intheinbox.wordpress.com/
Another valuable resource is Literary Rambles that provides interviews and information on many children's literature agents.
Hope you find these beans helpful!
Carrie Pearson is a children's book author, writer-cheerleader, and mentorship matchmaker.