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Start Your Children's Writing Career Today

So you want to write a children's book. Great! Writing for children is a wonderful hobby or occupation (as in my case).

But where does one start? What does one need to do to become a children's author? How did I become a published children's author?

Actually, I decided that I wanted to be a writer before I decided that I wanted to write children's books. The first thing I did after realising that I wanted to be a writer was join our local writers' centre. Then I joined a romance writers' group. Writing romance seemed like a good idea at the time. At a meeting of the romance writers' group I met several writers who were also writing children's books.

I hadn't read a children's book in quite a few years. And I hadn't considered writing for children. But the prospect interested me, so off I went to my local library. A visit to my library can take me a good hour (or more) as I study the shelves for books published in the past year or two.

While at the library, I also looked for non-fiction books about writing children's books. I've read every book on writing for children that I could find in the libraries around my city. I'm a member of a lot of different libraries. It's a joke with me that I collect libraries like some people collect stamps.

Next, I investigated a number of courses about writing children's books. I settled on an eight week course run by a local college. It covered everything I needed to know about writing for children (well, almost everything) at a very reasonable rate. Later, I completed a picture book course run by an adult education facility.

I call all of this reading and studying my apprenticeship. A writer has to learn how to write a book just as a pilot has to learn how to fly a plane.

After all this learning and writing I was ready to send my work to a manuscript assessment agency, other writers or my local writers' centre to gain feedback on my writing. I needed to know what I was doing wrong, as well as what I was doing right. This critical assessment of my work was part of my education.

It's through the writers' groups I belong to that I learnt about the publishing opportunities which lead to most of my books. Therefore I'm a big fan of networking.

I'm also a big fan of knowledge and practice, as my main publisher said to me in his first email: "you've obviously done this before". Another publisher recently noted in an email to me: "someone who understands a lot about picture book structure".

So, to reiterate, my advice is:

a. Join writers' groups. Local and/or online writers' groups. By joining writers' groups you hope to network, learn about the publishing world, obtain feedback on your work and make friends with similar interests.

b. Read a lot of recent children's books. Take notice of what you like and what seems to work. Study the writing. You're reading for research first, pleasure second.

When I visit the local library I look for recent releases. It's important to keep up with the market and what's being published. If you're writing a book about a comet hurtling towards Earth and a book with a similar storyline has been published in the last year, your story is unlikely to be published, no matter how good it is.

c. Read a lot of books about writing for children. It can help to read books about writing in general. But children's books are a specialised field. For example, you need to know the different types of children's books for the various age groups - the word lengths, language, style etc.

d. Write the type of children's books you enjoy the most. Write every day if possible. Practice makes you a better writer. Practice⁄repetition is how we learn and master tasks.

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