Three Ways to Take Your Children's (or any) Writing Career Seriously in the New Year

Saturday, December 21, 2013
If you’ve been thinking about a career as a children’s writer, there’s no time like 2014 to begin. But instead of just talking about it or maybe even writing a novel chapter here or there, it’s time to get serious! Think of your children’s and YA writing as a career. Here are three things you can do—starting January 1 (or even right now):

1. Set Goals—Children’s and YA writers come in all shapes and sizes. Some write picture books; some write novels. There are magazine writers and nonfiction book writers. What do you want to do? What is your main goal for your career? It’s important to set both short term (six month goals) and long term (one year or even five year goals). But what is even more crucial is that the goals are S.M.A.R.T. This acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely.

The point I always make with fellow writers is that you need to create goals that you can actually control. You should not say: “I will have an agent for my middle-grade series by August 2014.” You cannot control whether or not an agent is going to sign you.

Instead your goal could be: “I will send out three queries a week to agents for my middle-grade series until August 2014 and re-evaluate my project at that time if I haven’t signed a contract.” This goal is S.M.A.R.T and within your control!

2. Schedule Time—It is nearly impossible to become a children’s writer if you don’t set time aside every day to work on your career. The method that works best for me is to actually write down on our family calendar the times when I am going to write. Other people wake up early before going to their day jobs to write an hour each morning; some write during lunch hours; others are most productive when everyone goes to bed, and the house is quiet.

If you just say something like, “I will write every day,” but you never think about when this time will actually be—you will find it often gets pushed to the bottom of the list. Don’t let this happen.

3. Invest—You have to invest in your career. You can do this by taking a class, joining an organization like Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (, going to a conference, becoming a member of a critique group, subscribing to a writing magazine, or buying a writing craft book. The important thing is to either spend money on your career or make a commitment to other people (such as critique group members) to not only learn more about your craft, but to also show your family and friends that you are serious. And often if our pocketbooks are involved, we tend to be a bit more committed.

This is your year! Move forward in your writing career and take yourself seriously. 
Do you have another way you're going to take your writing career seriously? 

Margo L. Dill, award-winning author of Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength in Vicksburg, is teaching online, Writing For Children: How to Get Started and Take Hold of Your Career, starting on January 7, 2014. For more information, see the classroom page here:  

computer photo by Joe Lanman 


Sioux Roslawski said...

Margo--Thanks for the post. Your reminders (or was that a kick?)ended up halfway up my rear end. How did that happen? ;)

Margo Dill said...

Sioux, LOL--I need to kick myself, too. :) The goals thing--I need to make them SMART--they are always kind of vague.

BECKY said...

I don't do well with deadlines...but goals....I finally make them....finally! LOL

Renee Roberson said...

I like to consider myself a S.M.A.R.T. gal, but obviously I was wrong. I would totally be one of those writers who said "I'm going to get an agent in 2014!" Thanks for this timely end-of-year post and these tips for helping me figure out how to make my goals a little more manageable and realistic!

Marcia Peterson said...

These are good reminders for any writer. Love #3--it's true that spending money on yourself can motivate!

Margo Dill said...

@MP-It's also true for physical activity. It's how I get to the gym--spend money. ;) LOL

@Renee: Well, I like to say that's a dream--and then your goals are the things that get you your dream eventually.

@Becky--You have to know what works for you!

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

S.M.A.R.T. I love that! What a great way to evaluate your goals and also an acronym to remember it all.

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