Real Life D’oh

A recent article in my local paper caught my attention—a “Real Life” essay in which a free-lance writer shared her reflections on rejection letters.  Having plenty of experience with rejection letters myself (what writer doesn’t), I read on.  The author wrote non-fiction articles, but had an idea for a children’s fiction piece, so she’d queried several magazines about her work.  When her efforts met with rejection, she decided to expand her queries to children’s book publishers.  She was overjoyed when she finally received a request to see her manuscript from a big publishing house.  

Hurray for her success!  I cheered along with her…until the next sentence.  She hadn’t even written the story yet.  I just about sprayed the kitchen with my morning tea.  Yikes! 

Rule #1 of fiction: Don’t even think about querying until you have a completed and polished manuscript.

The writer then told how she’d whipped off the first draft of her manuscript over the weekend, polished it up the next week, and mailed it off.  My jaw hit the countertop. 

Rule #2 of fiction: Writing a children’s story is not easy.  Every word counts.  Plan on working at your craft and rewriting the whole thing several times.  Then when you think its perfect, get feedback from trusted writer friends.  And revise again.

Needless to say, she received a rejection. The sad part is that her idea might have been great.  The outcome might have been different, if she’d spent more time on her manuscript.

The best piece of advice that I give to any aspiring children’s author is to join the SCBWI. That’s the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.  This organization is a goldmine of information and support.  The packet of resources that you receive upon joining is worth every penny of the membership fee.  And that’s just the beginning of the benefits.  Check them out at www.scbwi.org.  Believe me, you’ll thank me for it later.

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4 Responses to Real Life D’oh

  1. Susan McClurg Berman says:

    You are a good person to steer her in the correct direction.

    • chs says:

      All of us make mistakes, but it’s a shame when we sabotage our own efforts. I learned a lot from the SCBWI. And I’m glad to have you and the rest of WotJ to give it to me straight. 🙂

  2. Lois Hoffman says:

    Great piece of advice! I can’t imagine that any manuscript can be great after a week. At least the writer knows that the idea is worth writing. Hopefully, they will savor the time with the project and wait until it’s just right. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Stories like this one annoy me. This writer potentially took away the opportunity for another writer (who has a finished product, but maybe not such a catchy idea) from getting their work reviewed and wasted the agent’s time with a substandard submission.

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