July 13, 2009 – Your baby–what is it?

You had a great idea and you’ve written something truly clever. Now you want to find someone to publish it. You ask a writer friend if he thinks it’s any good. Or maybe you pluck up your courage and send it to me. You’re looking for some words of encouragement. The first thing I want to know about your precious manuscript is–what is it?

I’ve just received a nice piece from a lovely lady. She’d like to see her piece made into a children’s picture book. But it has one huge problem. It doesn’t fit into any category.

It’s not a story. It has a bit of a story to it, but it doesn’t have all the characteristics of a good story. A story starts with a problem and builds scene by scene to a climax. Then the protagonist does something that snatches victory from defeat and leaves the reader with a satisfying resolution. Each main scene shows the protagonist talking and thinking and acting with tools.

It’s not an article. She could have used the story as a beginning to an article or an illustration in the article and then gone on to talk about the subject matter, but she hasn’t done that.

The piece is written for children, but it has adult words in it.

Her story does have a good point to it, which is important, but I fear the point will be lost as as far as publication goes because it doesn’t fit into a category that many publishers would look for.

Her problem is a common one for unpublished authors. They “straddle the fence” by writing a piece that doesn’t fit into any one place. They don’t find a market and aim at something that market needs. By failing to aim at any one target, they miss all the targets.

Next time you have a great idea, capture it on paper before you lose it. Then ask yourself, “What is it?” Is it a story or an article or a filler? If so, it needs to be structured like what it is. Does it have a point? What age group is it written for? Look at the words and make sure they are appropriate for the age level. If it’s written for children, ask a child to read it. Make sure the word length is appropriate for a particular editor. Short stories and articles that are 2000-4000 words long will have a hard time finding a market. Recognize that vignettes and meditations and journals may be lovely to show to friends, but they may not be publishable in their present form.

If this article describes your writing, go back to my writing articles and read “Getting Started Writing for Publication #1 & 2,” and “Building a Story #1,2, &3.”

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