Don't Give Up, Not Now!

Don’t Give Up – Not Now! I met up with a friend yesterday who is writing for children. Her book is fantastic but she’s had a few rejections – perfectly normal state of affairs, even for fab books.

She’s been chipping away, trying to get published for eighteen months now. She’s been doing all the right things – going to Children’s Books Ireland talks on getting published, keeping her eye out for new children’s publishers and agents and submitting her book to them (jeepers, some of them take so long to get back to people – and some don’t even acknowledge that they have received a manuscript which is so tough on writers), reading award winning children’s books, writing new books . . . but she’s starting to get disillusioned.

‘I feel like giving up, Sarah,’ she said. ‘Is there any point in going on?’

‘Don’t give up,’ I told her. ‘You’re nearly there. Do you have any idea how many people drop out of writing at this stage? You’re eighteen months ahead of those starting out, and if you keep going you’ll be even more ahead. You’re building up contacts, getting your name out there, finding out about the publishing business. Please, don’t give up, not now!’

She promised she’d keep going. And you know something, I have every confidence that she’ll get there. She has a lovely quirky writing voice, an equally lovely personality, a great sense of humour, and most importantly she’s willing to work hard. I have 100% faith in her.

I know how hard it can be to keep going when you have no idea if you’ll ever get published. So today I have some advice.

Here are the most useful things I can tell you writer to writer:

1/ Read – especially in the age group/area you are interested in writing for – read library/bookshop recommendations, award winners, bestsellers etc. If you want to write crime, romance, thrillers – you must have good idea of the market and the conventions of the genre (before you smash the conventions apart if you want to!).

If you want to write for children – you must be aware of what modern children like – and what works in a children's book. Also exactly what age you are writing for - the under 6s, early readers, confident readers, 8 to 10, 9 to 11, 11+, teen/YA. I have been asked to write more family stories/drama/romance for teens – so there must be a market for it. Publishers are also looking for good novels for girls of 8+. And adventure books with a twist are very strong at the moment – as is horror. Seek out Eoin Colfer, Darren Shan, Derek Landy, and Michael Scott.

2/ Write because you have something important to say – something you are passionate about – your book must have a message/say something to the reader If you are writing for children - write remembering just how it felt to be 4 or 7 or 9 or 13. Dig deep – use your memory – emotions don’t change – yes, kids now have bebo, facebook, mobiles – but they are just different ways of communicating – there has always been bullying, now it just comes in different forms.

3/ Connect with readers online – you must have a good blog or website – you can always write about books/bees/cookery if you don’t want to get personal.

4/ Take constructive criticism on your work – and not from your mother. You might find a librarian or teacher who will read your work – take on board what they say. When you are a published writer, editors have strong opinions (and may not always like everything about your book) – get used to taking advice and rewriting early in your writing career!

5/ Write from the heart – put lots of emotion on the page – don’t be afraid of strong emotion – and use your own emotions to write – if a sad scene – dig deep to a time you felt sad (think of it like acting on the page).

6/ Be optimistic and have a strong constitution – don’t get knocked back by the rejections – there will be many nos along the line – approach every writing day with as much energy and enthusiasm as you can – write with joy as Patrick Ness always says. I say – write with all your heart. Give 100% every time you sit down at your desk.

7/ Don’t give up – Think of Beckett – Ever tried, ever failed? No matter. Try again, fail again, fail better!

8/ Here’s the thing - if your writing is good enough, and your ideas strong and original enough, you will get published, simple as that. Publishers need good books. Make yours one of them. You only need 1 editor to like your book (along with the marketing team of course) –you only need 1 yes – so stick to your guns and aim for that one almighty YES.

Yours in writing,

Sarah X

PS there is a getting published seminar on 11th Sept for adults interested in writing for children - check out for details.