6.5 WHEN TO PRESS SEND
The importance of connection
Knowing when to send a text out on submission to editors or agents is certainly one of the hardest parts of writing. And let’s face it…none of it’s a piece of cake!
But, you don’t have to do it alone.
The kidlit community is brimming with opportunities to connect with peers, both online and in person, not least those set up by WriteMentor. Everywhere you look there are people who know how you feel, cheering each other on!
As an example, the WriteMentor Community Learning Hub now gives you access to a critique group, where you can share your text for thoughts from those who understand and are striving for the same dream as you.
Getting feedback is very helpful. We usually know what we’re trying to say, but it isn’t always clear to someone else. Critiques from peers, honest writing buddies and professional feedback can all be extremely helpful when answering the question; ‘Am I ready to press send?’
I’d be nowhere without the many critique partners who’ve helped me improve my writing over the years, and I’m still part of several brilliant critique groups now. I highly recommend it. Mostly because it’s rare to get a second chance in the writing world. Once your story has been passed by an agent or editor, they’re unlikely to want to see it again. Of course, editors will work with you on a text at the point that it is acquired. But it is important to get it in the best shape possible to help the busy industry professional see its potential. Critique partners can also help you judge if a text is ready.
However, it is important to be mindful of oversharing. Trying to incorporate too many different pieces of feedback can leave writers feeling confused and muddled. Take some time to reflect on feedback and only take forward what resonates with you and the story you want to tell. If you’re starting to feel it isn’t your story anymore, maybe take a step back.
Attending conferences, retreats and workshops
Going to conferences, retreats, and workshops is another good way of gaining some perspective on your work and where it might fit into the market. This can get expensive and depend on your accessibility, although lots of things have popped up online recently. Some are very affordable, even free.
But there’s one valuable (and completely free!) resource we haven’t mentioned yet…
Trusting your own knowledge
Don’t underestimate the power of you and your knowledge! Yes, it’s hard to gauge, but you are a big part of the editing process and you can gain objectivity on your writing and learn to edit your own texts, too. Here are some techniques and strategies that might help you reflect and critique your own work.
- Print it out and read from a hard copy
- Record yourself on your phone or computer reading the text aloud and play it back, or use the read aloud function on your computer
- Write a list of all the things you think a good picture book needs and create your own checklist to use against your story.
- It’s not just about the words. Don’t forget to critique your story’s overall concept. Does your text have a relatable, age-appropriate hook that appeals to people internationally?
- Put yourself in the shoes of an editor. Write a practice pitch or blurb for your text. Does it sell your book? Does your text have an engaging hook and intrigue?
- Put it in a drawer. There’s no substitute for distance and seeing your work through ‘fresh eyes.’
The truth is, we could probably go on editing forever and ever! If you’ve received positive feedback from people you trust AND you’re at the stage of putting the same word in and out (…and in again!) this might mean the text should have already gone!
As writers, we’re often held back by confidence or the lack of it. Imposter syndrome is real and it’s something writers know and relate to all too well.
To help answer the question, ‘When to Press Send?’ it’s really worth reading widely in the genre you want to write, if you haven’t done so already. This is important because it will help keep your focus on the audience you’re writing and keep your finger on the button in terms of what are publishers buying, what are librarians, teachers, parents, and children enjoying. It helps gain some much-needed perspective on where your book will fit.
If you’re ready to press send or have recently done so, congratulations! It’s so important to recognise the small steps and delight in the little wins. Overnight successes are rare. Picture book authors especially, accept that only a handful of their stories will see publication.
Ah, the gift of rejection!
That’s an article for another time!
You will develop as a writer and improve your craft over time. In the meantime, I’ll keep my fingers crossed that what you’re offering is exactly what an editor is looking for. There’s definitely a lot of luck involved.
Clare is a children’s writer and primary school teacher from Devon. She writes fiction and non-fiction picture book texts – sometimes funny and sometimes lyrical. Her first book was published in 2015 and she currently has books in development with Little Tiger Press, Quarto, Andersen, Nosy Crow and MacMillan. She also writes for the Maverick Early Readers scheme. You can find out more about Clare on her website http://www.clarehelenwelsh.com and by following her on Twitter @ClareHelenWelsh
Clare is also our Writer in Residence for the Hub, and teaches our online Picture Book course.