Children’s Writing Weblog

“Write a Marketable Children’s Book in 7 Weeks”….Our Exclusive Interview With the Authors

Posted on: November 3, 2010


Write a Marketable Children's Book In 7 Weeks

As you might imagine, we get many press releases and review copies of "how to" books for children's writers.  Most are "just OK", but once in a rare while we see a real winner and decide to add it to our product line.  And this is most certainly one of them.

Write a Marketable Children's Book in 7 Weeks does exactly what the title promises: it breaks down the daunting task of crafting a children's book into seven thoughtfully designed chunks.  It's so wonderfully simple and well-planned our first reaction was "Why didn't we think of this?"  🙂

The link to get this essential book is:

But first, check out our exclusive interview with the book's authors, Shirley Raye Redmond and Jennifer McKerley. Shirley and Jennifer have used this approach themselves to write over 30 published books, and say it works for all manuscripts from picture books through middle grade, fiction and nonfiction.

Your book takes a very straightforward, step-by-step approach to writing  fiction. Does this leave room for inspiration and creativity?

Shirley Raye: I think the creativity and inspiration are already there before someone would even be interested in or have need of our workbook. We’re just helping the writer with the production and packaging of her creative idea so that it can be brought to complete fruition and appeal to an editor.

Jennifer: Jane Yolen, the famous author, said, “To write 30 books or 300 books or 3 books? BIC. Butt in chair. Every day.” Creativity and inspiration play a big part in writing, but not as big a part as just doing it. We want those who dream of writing to bite the bullet and get a complete manuscript finished. We know it is an empowering feeling, and if they keep writing, they’ll learn that the writing habit itself triggers inspiration and creativity.

You emphasize studying the market and plotting out a book before beginning to write. What pitfalls might an author avoid by working this way?

Shirley Raye: When traveling some place you’ve never been before, it’s easy to get lost when you don’t have a road map or a reliable GPS.  It’s the same for a new writer on the road to publication.  One can get lost, bogged down with saggy middles, bumpy transitions, and a wimpy plot with inadequate action and no conflict resolution. By studying the market, the new writer will have an idea which publishing houses might be interested in the completed manuscript and what writing conferences to attend, should editors from those publishing houses be on the program. Why spend 7 weeks writing the world’s best chapter book, and then submit it to a publishing firm that only buys picture books? Know where you’re going!

Jennifer: Plotting and planning help the writer see what’s missing—in the storyline for fiction or in the narrative arc for nonfiction. It helps the writer know where to add tension or peak interest points. Concerning studying the market, if a someone researches and discovers the market is saturated with books too much like what she wanted to write, she can go on to another good idea and not waste her time. So we recommend knowing what’s out there. We also recommend reading many books like the one someone wants to write—which provides an indispensable education in the skills of writing.

You propose spending 15 hours per week for seven weeks to create a book. You set aside Weeks 3-5 for the actual writing of five pages per day. I can certainly see a picture book getting written in this time, with  plenty of time to revise, but is this realistic for a novel? At about two hours of writing a day, I can see a rough five pages being created, but what about rewriting?

Jennifer: In our workbook, we recommend that people start off using our plan for nothing longer than a 25,000-word middle grade novel. Our method does require quick revisions, but if someone feels they need more time to polish, they certainly should do that. However, we also encourage them not to take forever to send in their manuscript. Our goal is to get people writing and finishing whole projects—not dreaming and starting and then stopping when they hit a snag and never finishing.

Shirley Raye: I actually wrote my first romantic suspense novel (50,000 words) in 6 weeks using this same plan, along with my first juvenile novel,Grampa and the Ghost (which later became a Weekly Reader selection), a Nancy Drew mystery, and all my nonfiction chapter books for Gale/Cengage using this timeline. When I had the additional hours in the afternoons (when the baby was napping, for instance), I just kept writing. That’s the main thing. Write, write, write during the writing weeks. Get it all down on paper. Anne Lamont calls it, “the shitty first draft.” But then it’s done, and you can later revise with total concentration. The plan works!

Does your program allow for feedback, such as input from critique groups? If so, how much time should be allotted for these possible revisions?

Shirley Raye: Writers can get bogged down in revising endlessly based on the subjective whims of a critique group. Others, after reading an opening chapter or two, get discouraged by remarks from their colleagues and never finish the manuscript. I recommend one NOT share the work-in-progress with a critique group until the first draft is done.

Jennifer: Our method does not allot a specific time slot for critiquing by others. Critique groups can be helpful, but we have also learned that the best teacher is DOING and DOING over and over. One danger of waiting and relying on feedback from others is that some people never move on. If someone using our method wants feedback from others, he should ask one or two people to read the finished manuscript and then set a deadline of one or two extra weeks to incorporate what he decides to use from the feedback.

You mention that it's actually easier for a new author to break into publishing with nonfiction. Can your program be used to create nonfiction books as well?

Jennifer: In the workbook, we apply our method to fiction and nonfiction, and we give specific tips on producing exciting nonfiction. I used this method to write all of my nonfiction and fiction titles.

Shirley Raye: Yes, the plan is perfect for writing nonfiction, and we spend considerable time in the workbook going over the writing and marketing of a nonfiction manuscript. In fact, most of my book titles (and certainly all the ones that have sold over 150,000 copies each) have been nonfiction.

Any final advice for new writers?

Shirley Raye: The key word here is accommodate. Do you actually schedule your writing time? Or is it a hit-or-miss event? Do you plan to go TV-less one or two nights a week? When you do plop down in front of the television, do you do so purposefully or mindlessly? Television viewing is one of the most distracting time-wasters that writers must avoid. Exercise your willpower. Resolve to write instead.

Jennifer: Don’t wait to be inspired. Don’t wait for the “muse.” Film critic Roger Ebert told an audience of would-be filmmakers and musicians, "The muse never shows up at the beginning." Creativity begets creativity. You have to put yourself in gear and write the best story you can at the time. You will get better and better the more you do it. That’s a promise. As you mentioned, our workbook offers a straightforward, step-by-step approach. Our plan emphasizes persistence not speed. We provide a simple plan that does not overwhelm, but that encourages, guides, and shows a beginning writer how to steadily reach writing dreams.

You can order your copy of Write a Marketable Children's Book in 7 Weeks right now by going to:

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