In Mundelein, Illinois, sometime in the early 1990s, I prepared the science center of my preschool classroom for the day’s experiment. Kevin, my student, checked out the setup and decided he knew how to conduct the experiment and what the conclusion would be. “Teacher, I know your experiment. This sponge (he pointed to the long, skinny, natural sponge) holds more water than those two.” Kevin was correct.
I asked Kevin’s mother if I might use his statement when I got around to writing a book. She consented, but I never seriously thought I’d write one.
Several moves later, on a whim, I joined the Arizona chapter of the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators. At my first meeting I met Gale, who suggested I join the West Valley Writer’s Workshop in the Phoenix area. This led to joining one, then two critique groups.
The critique groups kept me writing. I didn’t want to attend meetings empty-handed with nothing to read for critique. By this time I’d begun writing parts of a Parenting manuscript—adolescence first then working backwards to infants and toddlers. I studied child growth and development in graduate school, and I am a mom, so writing on the topic of parenting made sense.
I find the following twelve tips useful:
- Keep copies of projects you especially enjoyed. They may provide useful information for your stories. Names and details must be changed unless permission has been granted.
- Find a comfortable writing space. I tried different areas of the house and finally found a room where I worked best. However, over time I’ve found that my work area changes with the seasons.
- Make time for writing. Most writers have day jobs. I taught, so I sectioned off time on the weekends and one to two hours per day during the week, depending on the teaching load and inspiration.
- Write what you know and enjoy. Writing from experience gives a rich, full-bodied read. Use research to add details, enhancing the story.
- If the writer creates a story and others say, “bad idea, no one will ever publish it,” don’t listen to them. Write what needs to be written, according to the writer’s heart.
- Take notes in a paper or online journal about humorous and not so humorous stories that happen at work and with your own children at home. These stories make great vignettes. My children, adults now, have given me permission to use snippets from their lives in my books.
- Read aloud what has been written. I am always surprised at the multitude of errors I catch by reading my work out loud.
- Consider membership in a writer’s organization. Writing is solitary work, but if you want to get your stories out to the public it is necessary to make connections in the writing and publishing world. The website http://www.bookmarket.com/writers.htm has a good list of organizations for writers and editors. The site is a work in progress.
- Join critique groups. They are invaluable. For me, it’s like attending graduate school for free. Every group will be different. I like the in-person groups to get to know the other writers on a more personal level. Every week brings new writing in many genres. I am in awe of the growth in the critique member’s writing. Some days I go home wondering how I’m going to implement the changes suggested by group members, but it’s all for a good cause—polished writing.
- Check out Meet Up. A plethora of groups on the site cover a variety of interests—writing is one. Say, for example, a writer wants to work on a Sci-Fi fantasy book. Sci-Fi groups are available on http://www.meetup.com/. Learn more about the topic at the meetings, and use knowledge gained for book material if you choose. The possibilities are limited only by imagination and time.
- Consider a writer’s website. An inexpensive, user friendly option is WordPress, https://wordpress.org/, which is what I use. New themes are frequently added.
- Start a blog. People want to know about the writer and what he or she is doing. Blogging provides the writer with an opportunity to communicate directly to and develop a personal relationship with the reader. I love it when people make comments on my blog.
What began as an offhand comment to a parent of a preschool student twenty some years ago became the inspiration for my first book—Parenting . . . A Work in Progress, published in December of 2014. This was followed by a children’s chapter book series, The Adventures of Charlie Chameleon, the first one, subtitled New Beginnings, was published in December of 2015, soon to be followed by School Days, Summertime, and then Holiday Celebrations.
Sometimes it’s good to do the scary thing; take a deep breath and jump right in.