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How I Sold and Wrote Six Books in Six Months
by Kathryn Lay
When a writer friend told me that she’d just sold a series of children’s chapter books to an educational publisher and that I should send an idea to them, I didn’t hesitate. I knew I needed the emotional perk of such a sale and definitely the money would help several needs my family had. When an opportunity comes up in the writing world, you have to grab it quick. I knew I had to move fast while they were still needing ideas.
I already had an idea for a series. I didn’t have details in my mind, but I knew the series title and that the subject would be weather.
It’s difficult to sell a children’s book series. Usually it happens when a book takes off and sells well and editors ask for more. Or an author, most of the time through an agent, sells an idea that is a trilogy and must be sold as a group. But more often, it’s the first way. An idea and/or character is perfect to continue being written and read such as Junie B. Jones books, Magic Treehouse, and others.
I submitted a quick query introducing myself and my writing credits and a one-line blurb about my idea. The editor wrote back that it sounded very intriguing and if I could put together a proposal she could take to her boss.
My first big part of the writing came with putting together the proposal.
I spent time alone, most of it sitting on my back porch with my MP3 blaring in my ears, with a notebook in hand. I made a list of topics, six different weather events. I made a list of 3 main characters and their teacher. I spent time delving into each character, making them different and fun. The teacher definitely had to be cool for this book too. Then I added ‘extra’ ideas that would be included at the end of each book that would appeal to librarians and teachers in a school setting since this was the market the publisher targeted. I had to think: educational.
Once I had my proposal well thought out, I organized it into the main topic, the characters, the basic plot of each book (the hardest part of preparing my proposal, but definitely beneficial when I began writing quickly), and ideas for the end of each book.
As I waited for the response, I wondered if I was getting into something that might be too big to handle. I was used to writing fast. I write and submit many things every month. But this was different. The deadlines would be real and the information, even in the midst of fiction, had to be accurate as well as fun.
When the contract came, after doing lots of dancing around my office, I realized I actually had to write the books now. I had 6 months to do it, too, with deadlines coming every three or four weeks. I knew several friends who had written series for Scholastic with such deadlines, but, could I do it?
I didn’t want to start actually writing the books until the first of the year and the holidays were behind me. But, I spent those three weeks between receiving the contract and beginning the books reading. I checked out and bought used copies of lots of chapter book series. I especially did my best to find the first book of each series to see how they ‘set it up’: the settings, the characters, and the story idea.
Then it was time to begin writing. I knew my characters, my basic storyline for each book, and my school setting. But there was lots more to each book than that.
I was dealing with specific weather issues each time, as well as needing to know the safety issues that went along with the weather, things that kids should learn. So before beginning each book, I spent several days researching each weather topic so that I would jump into the story with the correct knowledge and feel. By researching my topic ahead of time, it made the writing much easier.
As I wrote, adding names of classmates who might appear once in each book, adult characters and their quirks, and school settings, I kept the information in my notebook for the series so I could be accurate from book to book. Even then, when all were done, my editor let me know that my class of 26 kids had 18 girls and 8 boys. I went back and changed some of the kids names to even it out just a little more.
Lastly, when writing so quickly, I had to set goals for myself. I had the publisher set goals for each book, though they were a little flexible on each one as long as they were all sent in by late May. But I knew that since I was also working on rewriting a larger children’s novel I’d been working on for a year as well as magazine pieces for kids and adults, I had to give myself specific goals.
For each book I gave myself 3-4 weeks total time. This was separated into research, plot and setting preparation, first draft writing, rewriting, then all the back of the book material. After the first three books, I was better able to figure out which of these areas needed more time and which ones I could devote a little less time to than I originally thought.
Whether you are writing six books in six months or a large article due in four weeks; planning, preparation and goal setting is your best bet for getting it all done.
© Copyright 2009, Kathryn Lay
Kathryn Lay is the author of 26 books for children, over 2000 articles, essays and stories for children and adults and the book from AWOC.COM Publishing, The Organized Writer is a Selling Writer. Check out her website at www.kathrynlay.com and email through firstname.lastname@example.org
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