I jumped into a writing career in my mid-40s. I was an assistant controller for a manufacturing company before that.
With my accounting background, writing about business and marketing was a natural fit… or so it seemed at the time.
My first gig as a freelance writer was for a company that offered human resources solutions. They had two related (sister) sites and I wrote articles for one site and rewrote them for the other.
Rewriting can be fun, but is also challenging as it’s important to have the new content pass a duplicate content checker.
The reason for this is Google doesn’t like duplicate content on your website or your related sites.
Heath writing was soon added to the mix and it was more lucrative than the business and marketing writing.
I supplied an allergy site with about 100 articles per month. I had to hire subcontractors to help with this project.
I also did academic rewriting and editing for health professionals.
Then I decided to add on writing for children.
It seemed like a natural addition as I had written a bedtime lullaby when my first daughter was a baby – to help her fall asleep. I turned it into a children’s bedtime picture book in 2008.
Soon though, I was stretching myself too thin as you can imagine. That’s never a good thing for a number of reasons.
-You can’t devote the time and focus needed to a particular genre.
-You don’t have a strong platform or brand.
-And, you know the saying: Jack of all trades, master of none. This is definitely not a good thing. It should always be quality over quantity.
I had to decide what genre I would focus on.
Focus is essential to success.
As the children’s writing really took off and grew each year, and I love to bring children on journeys, that’s the genre I chose.
And that’s how my children’s writing career got started.
Another example of never being too old to follow your dreams is a 92 client I worked with about a year ago.
I got a query from a woman who had a children’s picture book published in by Houghton Mifflin in 1988.
She had a 25,000-word middle grade story she had been submitting to agents but wasn’t getting any interest. She asked if I’d review it. After a few emails, I learned she was 92 years old!
Ninety-two! And she was following her dream!
She inspired me.
Working and raising seven children on her own during most of their growing-up years didn’t leave room for writing, especially as she had to work. Once she was able, she got back to it, though. She wanted to publish more stories.
After consulting with this client, she turned her middle grade into a chapter book, and I edited for her. She then self-published. I went on to review and edit several shorter stories for her.
And there are lots of other late bloomers.
The very successful authors listed below also started their writing careers later in life:
Toni Morrison - Age 40
Mark Twain - Age 41
J.R.R. Tolkien - Age 45
Raymond Chandler - Age 51
Annie Proulx - Age 57
Laura Ingalls Wilder - Age 65
Frank McCourt - Age 66 (1)
So, if you’re wondering if it’s too late to start writing, IT’S NOT.If you have the desire and haven’t gotten started writing for children yet, GET STARTED TODAY!
Your story begins with an idea, an idea that has come from one of your own experiences or someone’s experience that you’ve observed.
To write your story, you first need to do your homework: read up on writing for children, read other authors’ books in your genre, take courses, go to conferences, join a critique group, etc. Write on a regular schedule and you will learn, through trial and error, what works and what doesn’t work on your road to publication.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it?
Oh, but there’s so much more. My own writing journey is a lot like a discovery I made when I became a Girl Scout leader. I went through the training, read the manual, and prepared myself to do whatever I could for the girls in my troop.
What I didn’t realize until later was how much the Girl Scouts would do for me! I learned many crafts and how much work goes into making lasting, worthwhile crafts. Our troop spent a lot of time outdoors, and together we acquired a lifelong knowledge of skills and a love of nature. I could go on.
The same happened when I started writing: becoming a writer has done so much for me I could fill volumes.
Here in a nutshell, are the hallmarks of what I have learned.
Tip #1: Decide Where to Begin
When the urge to write takes hold of you, take some time to decide the direction you will take.
Nonfiction is an excellent place to start. You can learn the ropes while finding an easier path to publication than fiction. Editors are always on the lookout for good, solid nonfiction articles.
Fiction is a world unto itself and much needs to be learned. Resources abound in your local area and online. Take advantage of them and soon you will be on your way.
Exploring your feelings and beliefs, I have found, goes hand-in-hand with your writing journey.
Tip #2: Decide What You Care About
Build your stories around the things you care about the most. You will be doing three things:
Bringing out what you’re interested in passing on to the next generation.
Giving yourself activities to share during school, library and organization visits.
Promoting what you stand for as a person.
Here is my list of what I care about most, and how I’ve strived to incorporate the topics on my list into my stories.
Family: Every children’s story is a family story—the type of family determined by you, the author.
Friendship: So important in childhood, my stories reflect what being a friend means.
Nature and the Outdoors: Much of the setting in my stories takes place outdoors. I strive to make this appear a natural, integral part without giving away my desire to spark an interest in my readers to get outside to play and explore.
Athletics and Staying Fit: Lots of running, biking, and sports are in my stories, showing some characters as fit, while showing others struggle who are not so good at athletics.
Music: A few references to music are made—really, snuck in.
Hobbies: Also shown as an integral part of my stories. Learning the importance of having a hobby is a gift I received from my dad, who had several serious hobbies. I would like to pass on the place a hobby can have in a person’s life.
These last two go without saying: Appearance and the Importance of Surrounding Oneself with Positive Friends, snuck in as part of the story.
Tip #3: Sure-Fire Ways to Become a Success
If anyone had told me how much goes into writing for children before I started, I wouldn’t have believed them. I have learned that there are certain qualities that will help you succeed:
Desire: Essential to keep going through the ups and downs of your writing journey. I let writing go for a few years to go back to teaching. As soon as I left teaching, BOING, up popped that writing desire, a part of me that I know now will never die.
Perseverance: An editor once told me she has observed that the way to succeed in writing is to persevere. The writers she knows who have stuck it out are the ones who get published.
Write for Yourself while Thinking of Others: Ask yourself what your reader wants: a good mystery, a story that reflects a need, an exciting adventure. Then write that story for him or her.
Above all: Have Fun! Have you ever heard that when you go to a party, if the hostess is having fun, the guests will have fun, too? The fun you have writing your story will electrify your readers and keep them coming back for more.
Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 100 articles for adults and children, and six short stories for children. Recently, she has completed her first book, a mystery/ghost story for children 7-11 years old, and is hard at work on Book Two in the series. Follow Linda at www.lindawilsonauthor.com.
Let me take a look at your notes, outline, or draft. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter and rewriter. I can turn your story into a book that you’ll be proud to be author of.
Shoot me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org (please put Children’s Ghostwriter in the Subject line). Or, you can give me a call at 834—347—6700
As with life, some people think everything has to be perfect before they start their writing journey or continue on one.
It may be they don’t think they’ve mastered the craft of writing to perfection.
Or, maybe the writer has started her story, but can’t seem to achieve the perfection she’s looking for. She believes what she’s written isn’t worthy of submissions. So, she keeps pecking away at it, hoping one day it will be perfect.
Well, if you fall under either of these scenarios, you’ll be waiting a very long time. In fact, your time of action may never come.
Meriam-Webster defines perfection as “the state or condition of being perfect” and “something that cannot be improved.”
So, perfection is something that you can’t possibly make better.
Kind of makes you think, doesn’t it?
What on earth can’t be improved upon? What is actually perfect?
Keeping this in mind, here’s what a few famous authors/artists have to say about the illusive perfection:
“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”
~ Salvador Dalí
“If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.”
~ Margaret Atwood
“If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.”
~ Leo Tolstoy
“The artist who aims at perfection in everything achieves it in nothing.”
~ Eugene Delacroix
“Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection.”
~ Kim Collins
“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” ~ Vince Lombardi
“Striving to be the best person we can be and striving to do the very best we can in all our endeavors is the closest to perfection we can ever get.”
~ Karen Cioffi
“I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.”
~ Michael J. Fox
My favorite is what Michael J. Fox says: “Perfection is God’s business!”
GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK!
So, if you have these perfection tendencies, try to overcome them. Don’t let an unrealistic viewpoint stop you from achieving writing success.
But, what if you just don’t’ trust your own judgement or can’t overcome that perfection tendency?
Having other writers go over your story can pick up lots of trouble spots and help you improve your manuscript. And, they’ll have a much more objective view of the story.
After you get all you can from a critique group, you might want to hire a professional editor.
While every author can continue revising a story, there comes a time when you have to let go.
If your critique group and editor believes it good to do. Take their advice.
Don’t let the illusion of attaining perfection in your writing stop you from submitting your manuscript or achieving a writing career.
Check out my 170+ page ebook (or paperback) that gives you all the basics of WRITING FICTION FOR CHILDREN. It’s newly revised and includes information on finding a publisher or agent, and marketing your books.
You’ve chosen to write books, possibly children’s books, and you’ve done it right. You did your homework and learned the craft of writing. You created a polished manuscript and submitted it to publishers.
And, knowing it’s not necessarily the best writer who gets published, but the one who perseveres, you were steadfast and didn’t let initial rejections and lapse of time prevent you from moving forward.
Now, it’s finally happened – all your hard work paid off. A publisher accepted your book and you’re on your way.
But, this is far from the end of your writing journey . . . this is just the beginning.
After your book is accepted for publication, there are three steps you will go through on your writing journey . . . if you intend to make writing books a career.
1. The Book Contract
Once you get a publishing contract, you may want to sign it as soon as you can.
DON’T DO IT!
Be sure to read the contract carefully before signing it. If you don’t understand something, ask for an explanation. Once you’re sure everything in the contract is okay and you agree with it, sign away.
After you sign a contract, you’ll be ‘put in queue’ and at some point editing with the publisher’s editor will begin. This will most likely involve revisions to your manuscript. This is okay. It’s part of the process.
Keep in mind that the publisher wants your book to succeed as much as you do. Everything they do is to make it better.
After the story is revised, edited, and proofed, it’ll be ready to go. Depending on the genre you’re writing in, if it’s a children’s book, the publisher will have illustrations created. Your book will also need a book cover.
From contract to actual release, the publishing process can take around 18-24 months.
2. Book Promotion
Once you’re in the submission phase of your manuscript, even before you have a contract, you should begin creating an author website and platform. This will help you create visibility for you and your book. And, publishers want to know their authors are capable of promoting their own books.
You need to become a ‘blip’ on the internet radar. To create and maintain this ‘blip,’ you’ll need to post content to your site on a regular basis and use a number of other strategies to extend your promotional reach. This will include using social media.
After your book’s release, you will want to take part in virtual and real book tours, do radio guest spots (online and off), do school visits, and all the other standard book promotion strategies. You can do this on your own or you can hire a book promotion service or publicist, if it’s within your book marketing budget.
There’s much involved in book promotion, so if you can afford it make use of professionals. Just be sure to ask around for recommendations. You want to use a service or individual who knows what they’re doing and who will give you value for your money.
TIP: Book promotion generates book sales.
You can check out these articles for book marketing tips:
Now, you’ve got your children’s book and you’re promoting it like crazy (this is an ongoing process). This is super-exciting and the beginning of your writing career.
To have a writing career though, you need to repeat the process. This means you need to write and publish other stories. Ideally, you should have been writing a new story or stories when you were waiting to get a contract for your first manuscript.
If you haven’t been writing new stories, get started now.
Keep in mind though that it’s not about quantity. It’s about quality.
You want to write good books. You want to take your time to make sure you create books that will engage the reader. Books that the reader will want see what happens on the next page.
This will establish you as a good writer.
But, a writing career can also be about more than just book sales. It can open doors and lead to other writing opportunities. These opportunities include: speaking engagements, conducting workshops, teleseminars, webinars, and coaching.
Summing It Up
Writing books, whether children’s books or other, is about learning the craft. And, if you’re taking the traditional publishing route, it’s about submitting to publishers and getting contracts. Then it’s about book marketing and repeating the process.
Being a writer, like being any kind of artist who creates something from nothing, is an amazing ability. It’s almost like magic. And, you are in control. You decide what to create. The only limit you have is the cap on your imagination.
Check out my 180 page ebook that gives you all the basics of Fiction Writing for Children, finding a publisher or agent, and marketing your books. GET STARTED TODAY!
As you’re planning your work week, be sure to do the following if you wish to have the most productive week possible:
1. List your 3 major writing/career goals at the top of this week’s marketing plan – that way, you can check each of the actions you plan to take this week to make sure they are *all* in alignment with one or more of your major goals.
If you’ve planned on taking action that isn’t in alignment with one of those goals, what is the purpose?
Take it off the list since it won’t move you closer to one or more of your goals.
2. Don’t overload this week’s plan/schedule with too many action steps.
You don’t even need to take actions toward all 3 goals every single week.
In fact, it might be better to take action toward only 1 or 2 of your 3 major goals in any one week.
Remember, you want to build your writing career, but you want to enjoy your life, too.
Don’t overload your writing schedule so you have no time to just relax and enjoy yourself.
3. Instead of simply making a list of the actions you plan to take this week, get a calendar or make up a calendar for the week.
Make your plan an actual schedule, with the specific dates (and even times, if you like) listed for each action you plan to take this week.
You’ll be more productive if you do this rather than just listing your action steps because you won’t have to waste any time during the week wondering which action step to take.
You’ll know because all you need to do is look at your schedule, then take the action that is scheduled for that date and time.
Now, get your weekly marketing plan/schedule created – or modify it if you need to according to the steps, above – then all you need to do this week is follow your plan.
For more writing tips and resources delivered to your e-mailbox every weekday morning, get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge from Suzanne Lieurance, the Working Writer’s Coach.
buildMy 10 year old grandson is trying out for the All County Band in his area. He was telling me the piece he has to play is difficult. I told him that practice is a powerful tool. Just 10-15 minutes a day will help tremendously.
Obviously the more practice the better, but my grandson has ADHD. Reducing the amount of time on practicing doesn’t make it seem overwhelming – it’s doable.
This philosophy will work for anything, including writing.
What does it take to have a flourishing writing career?
1. Learn the craft and practice it.
To be a ‘good’ writer, an effective writer, a working writer, you need to know your craft. The only way to do this is to study it.
If you’re starting out, take a few courses online or offline or both. Get a strong grasp of the basics.
We’re all familiar with “practice makes perfect.”
There’s a reason that saying has lasted. It’s true.
Writing coach Suzanne Lieurance says, “Writing is a lot like gardening because it takes constant pruning and weeding.”
You need to keep up with your craft. Even as your get better at it, keep honing your craft. Keep learning more and more and practice, practice, practice
So, what does it mean to practice?
Simple. Write. Write. Write.
An excellent way to improve your writing skills is to copy (type and/or handwrite) content of a master in the niche you want to specialize in.
This is a copywriting trick. You actually write the master’s words and how to write professionally mentally sinks in.
Now, we all know that this is just a practice tool. We should never ever use someone else’s content as our own.
2. Focus in on a niche.
Have you heard the adage: A jack of all trades and master of none?
This is the reason you need to specialize.
You don’t want to be known as simply okay or good in a number of different niches. You want to be known as an expert in one or two niches.
This way, when someone is looking for a writer who specializes in, say, memoirs and autobiographies, you’re at the top of the list
I would recommend that your niches are related, like memoirs and autobiographies or being an author and book marketing.
Along with this, focus produces results.
According to an article in Psychology Today on focus and results, Dan Goleman Ph.D. says, “The more focused we are, the more successful we can be at whatever we do. And, conversely, the more distracted, the less well we do. This applies across the board: sports, school, career.
So, practice and focus your way to a successful writing career.
Focus, determination, and perseverance are essential to just about every aspect of your life. Each characteristic is unique and together create a powerful synergy.
Focus is one’s ability to concentrate exclusively on a particular thing through effort or attention.
Determination is an unchanging intention to achieve a goal or desired end.
Perseverance takes determination a step beyond by using steady and ongoing actions over a long period of time to ensure its intention is accomplished. It continues on through ups and downs.
These elements combined with positive thinking and projection can be an unstoppable force.
I’m a huge fan of positive thinking and projection. I believe our mind has a great influence over our well-being and the direction our life can take. Granted, it’s not always easy to harness that influence, but there is enough content out there, including The Secret, to at least strive to think positive and project.
For example, Jack Canfield and co-creator Mark Victor Hansen, of Chicken Soup for the Soul, were rejected 144 times from publishers. Finally, in 1993, their book was accepted. Since they were in debt and couldn’t afford a publicist, they did their own promotion. In 1995, they won the Abby Award and the Southern California Publicist Award.
In a teleconference I attended with Jack Canfield as the speaker, he said he and his co-author created vision boards of what they wanted. They even took a copy of the New York Times Best Selling Page, whited out the #1 spot, and replaced it with Chicken Soup for the Soul. They put copies of it everywhere, even in the toilet. They had focus, determination, perseverance, and they envisioned and projected success. The rest is history.
On a much smaller scale, my daughter Robyn, practices the philosophy of The Secret. For ten years she dreamed of being in the audience of the Oprah show. She actually got tickets twice, but for one reason or another she was unable to attend. It didn’t stop her though; she persevered and kept trying. She knew one day she’d accomplish her goal and she did. She attended O’s 10 Anniversary celebration in New York City.
So, what has this to do with you as a writer? Plenty.
The elements for obtaining your goals are the same whether for business, marketing, life, or writing. Just about every writer has heard the adage: it’s not necessarily the best writers who succeed, it’s the writers who persevere.
Be focused and determined on your writing goals. Have a ‘success’ mindset. This means to project success, along with taking all the necessary steps to becoming a successful and effective writer. And, don’t let rejection stop you – persevere.
To reinforce the need for perseverance, here’s a great article from LitHub that lists a number of other famous authors who had their share of rejection: The Most Rejected Books of All Time
Writers need to be tough. It’s not an easy arena to be in. Did you know that writers get so many rejections there have actually been studies done on it. According to a Huffington Post article, “96% of authors seeking agents are rejected.” (1)
That’s pretty severe.
Another article at Writer’s Digest says, “don’t even think about giving up until you’ve queried at least one hundred agents.” (2).
But, what if Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen gave up after 100 rejections. They were rejected 144 times before landing a publishing contract.
So, how does a writer become successful?
Well, there are at least 3 characteristics that go a long way in giving a writer a fighting chance.
Perseverance is probably the single most important factor. You can learn to write. You can improve your writing. You can submit you work more often. But, if you get discouraged when successes don’t come as fast as you’d like or expected, you may start writing less, you may give up.
This is where you need to persevere. Know that it’s not the best writers who succeed, it’ those who persevere.
From personal experience I can attest to this. I work in two niches. I did it for years with not much success. Then suddenly, clients began finding me and hiring me in one of those niches.
More often than not, success is just around the corner. You’ve got to persevere.
2. You MUST set goals.
While perseverance is an essential factor in writing success, without setting goals, what are you persevering toward? You need to be a goal setter.
Your goals need to be specific. What do you really want to succeed at?
Getting ongoing publishing contracts.
Getting freelance writing projects on a regular basis.
Supplementing your income.
Earning $50,000 per year. Earning $100,000 per year. Earning $500,000 per year. Being a millionaire.
Becoming a New York Times Best Seller.
I found it more tangible to create monthly income goals rather than yearly ones.
You need to find what your goals are and what strategy to use to obtain them. And, you need to make those goals visible. Create a vision board or write them down and read them every day.
One big pitfall in writing is not having focus.
I mentioned earlier that after years of struggling along, I began to get clients on a regular basis. And, I’ve gotten lots of return and series clients.
One important factor how this came about is I began to focus on one writing niche. I devoted the majority of my time and energy in that area and it paid off.
This doesn’t mean you can’t have more than one writing niche, but if you want to succeed in something, you need to prioritize. You need to focus.
As my writing coach would say, focus on what’s making you money.
Get to work building these three characteristics and see if it doesn’t make a difference. And, let us know how you make out.