Happy Halloween! Rather than give you another Halloween book, today I'm going to prepare you for the month ahead. November is NaNoWriMo (that's National Novel Writing Month to you lay folks), and it kicks off tomorrow.
     Several of my novels were born during NaNoWriMo. It's a perfect time to be consumed with all things writing-related. Which is why I'm thrilled to have Lisa Rojany Buccieri as a guest today to talk about her latest book, WRITING CHILDREN'S BOOKS FOR DUMMIES (2nd Edition)...

Q. Lisa, it's not anybody who can write the definitive guide to creating children's books. How did you get the job?
A. Thanks for the compliment! I actually got a call from one of Wiley’s frequent writer-contributors who had seen my website and found a bunch of references to me via a subsequent Google search and other research about editors. You have to remember that I have worked in publishing as an Editorial Executive planning lists, as a writer being edited, and as an editor for writers, so my experience is pretty inclusive. And I had the time of my life writing this book—and writing the second edition, which has about 60% new material. I am learning all the time. And it feels great to be able to share all that I have learned with people eager enough to commit to writing for children by buying a pretty comprehensive guide.

Q. What do you think some key differences are between writing for children and writing for adults?
A. While I think the basics of a well-executed character arc, a plausible plot, tight story development, and dramatic tension apply to all fiction, children’s books afford less leeway for error. In terms of word count alone, there is less room in children’s books to meander, philosophize, convey inner thoughts, or provide description. Imagine: In less than 1,000 words, a picture book must deliver an active, relatable character with a driving desire who must conflict in a dramatic way with an element in his or her environment and reach a conclusion that would satisfy the target audience of children 3–8 years old. That’s a lot!
      Plus, children are less likely to give a book “a chance” for another 30 pages to see if the book gets better. Either you grab them right away or you are toast! With fiction for grownups, there is a bit more planning and complication by virtue of having more pages in which the characters get to do their thing.

Q. Who is the book for and how can they best use it to help their writing process?
A. WRITING CHILDREN’S BOOKS FOR DUMMIES SECOND EDITION is for anyone who wants to write a children’s book, whether you are a new writer, a published writer who’s stuck, or a veteran writer who wants to shake things up. Seventy percent of the book is devoted to the writing process. So we start from the beginning identifying different children’s book formats, going through how to develop a compelling character, addressing how to plan and carry out dramatic action and story, and move all the way through the process to how to write a compelling query letter and submit your book in the traditional manner to publishers or self-publish. We even cover marketing choices. It’s a pretty comprehensive look at contemporary writing and publishing.

Q. Which parts of the book will speak especially to NaNoWriMo participants and what are some key ideas for them to keep in mind as they burn the midnight oil typing away?
A. First, turn off the editor. You’ll have 11 months to refine and polish, this month is all about quantity. While the NaNoWriMo rules don’t allow you to start writing before November 1, they do allow planning. So if you know yourself well enough as a writer to know that you will be unable to let a draft alone and continue without going back to fix, then creating character bibles, context bibles, and an action outline (all three of which we discuss in the book), may be the best way to free yourself from the critic. Having those available for reference can make more meticulous writers feel more in control. And if you don’t have time to use these planning tools, they can contribute toward your word count if you use their contents somewhere in the novel.
      Don’t obsessively check your word count. Just keep writing every day until your fingers simply cannot move anymore.
      Make sure you have a quiet space and time. You may be burning up the midnight oil, but it’s only for a month. Anyone can get through a month.
      If you get stuck, have one of your favorite characters start talking to another character as if they were just meeting for coffee—to break up. Any heated emotional exchange will get the passion going again.
      And reading a favorite author can help when inspiration or ideas fail to emerge.
      Finally, there is nowhere that fiction cannot go, and there is nothing a writer cannot do. NaNoWriMo is the perfect time to simply go for it because you are not taking a risk by writing, you are taking a risk by not writing, by not committing all those words to paper. Give yourself permission to write the worst novel ever, because that novel can be revised later, whereas an unwritten novel cannot.

Q. What are some common mistakes you see writers make when starting out and how will WRITING CHILDREN'S BOOKS FOR DUMMIES help them avoid those?
A. Many writers new to children’s books do not know that there are different formats of children’s books for different target ages, of different lengths and vocabulary levels, that some children’s books don’t even have pictures. You can’t just submit a “children’s storybook.” You have to be specific about format and audience. For this reason we spend a lot of time in the book discussing the different children’s book formats.
      We also have a chapter that dissects the illustrating process a bit. Many writers have no idea that if they write a picture book they are not supposed to include illustrations or hire an illustrator before submission. Of course, self publishing is another story altogether, but there is no path faster to an editor’s recycling bucket than bad illustrations.
      There are also many simple grammatical, formatting, and dialogue mistakes beginning writers make, and we laid out as many as the publisher allowed us to. If your readers want a PDF of COMMON GRAMMAR AND FORMATTING ISSUES please have them email me at EditorialServicesofLA@gmail and request it for free.

Q. Can you share your path to publication with my readers?
A. I actually had to write a lot of books for free for the publishers I was working with to build my resume and learn the craft before I was ready to go out into the world with new ideas and risky manuscripts. Most writers will not have this path available to them, so I was fortunate to get a lot of experience on the job.
      I always encourage writers of children’s books, fiction or nonfiction, and illustrators to join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (www.scbwi.org). This organization, for a minimal annual fee, provides at the very least a list of all the editors at all the publishing houses, what they publish, and what they are looking for. That’s thousands of research hours saved right there. They also have annual conferences and local chapters so you can get together with your peers, no matter your level of expertise.
      The worst mistake a new writer can make is not being educated about the simple stuff. Get a book on writing or publishing and join a writing group or take a daylong class. You don’t want to put anything but your best foot forward when it comes to your writing and there are lots of simple mistakes that can get in the way of your success without your even realizing it. Don’t be a dilettante. Get the 411 about the business as well as about the writing itself and the submission or publishing process.

Q. Any final words of wisdom for budding writers?
A. Get expert feedback. You don’t necessarily have to pay for it, but you do need someone other than your grandma, your kids, your partner, and your kid’s teacher to look over the manuscript and give you feedback. Even I, a professional editor, have another professional editor go over my work (often several times) before I dare to get it out into the world. When you write and print out a manuscript, there is something that feels final about it and that can give you a false sense of confidence that the manuscript does not yet merit. So get some reliable feedback and do the work necessary to make your work the best it can be.

Thanks so much for stopping by dulemba.com!!!

Lisa has kindly offered to send a signed copy of WRITING CHILDREN’S BOOKS FOR DUMMIES SECOND EDITION to one of my lucky commenters. (Must live in the US to win.) Sign up below.
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1 comment:

LadyD Piano said...

Great information on the writing process. Looks like a valuable resource to have!