Before You Write and Before You Publish

I was catching up on my Horn Book reading and had to laugh and nod at Roger Sutton’s editorial. Especially this:

Don’t even think about publishing until you’ve actually started writing, and don’t even think about writing until you’ve done a whole lot of reading. And not of websites or how-to guides; that’s just dilly-dallying. Read children’s books. Lots of children’s books.

So true.

I love the how-to stuff, as well, but the foundation of your reading should be the form you want to write in. If it’s picture books, read one every single day (preferably published in the past 3 years). If it’s edgy ya novels, read one every week, etc.

Yes, there are the rare success stories where the first book a writer writes actually gets published, but the truth is a writer’s “first book” is actually the 5th or 10th or even 50th she or he has actually written. And the writing keeps getting better and stronger and sharper because of all the writing AND all of the reading.

When we have clients who want feedback on their first books, that’s great! We love pointing out what’s working and what’s not in order to help writers get better. But when we have clients who want to publish their first book, the best advice we can usually give is slow down, read more books, and write more books. See Kate Messner’s very enlightening post about “picture book math” to get an idea of how many more you might need to write.

But I’m rambling. What I really want to say is, if you want to be a children’s writer but you aren’t reading a lot of kids’ books, then it’s time to start. In fact, that would make a great resolution for 2016. (Hint, hint.)


About Laura Purdie Salas

children's writer, poet, reader, visiting author, speaker/teacher, mentor, copyeditor, freelance writer
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