I don’t know about you, but I don’t really enjoy short stories. I like to have a little more meat–which is also why I don’t like ribs or wings. There’s too much work to get so little to chew on.
Last time, I mentioned wrote a children’s story. It started as an attempt at a short story, because the idea plopped its hindquarter into my head in its entirety. No additional meat necessary. When I completed the story at 1200 words, I figured I’d edit it to a 1000-word flash fiction because there are local flash fiction contests. (I haven’t ruled out the possibility–just so you know.) As I worked on it, the visual of a picture book formed and I couldn’t convince myself otherwise. Others agreed. However, I know NOTHING about writing, editing, targeting, etc. anything related to children’s books.
Well…Myrtle the Younger is my resident (literally) artist and oversees any and all artistic endeavors since I can’t draw a stick figure to save my life. So, I figure I’ve got a built-in illustrator for my little story. She agreed and rendered some delightful concept art. At the same time, I get an invite to a workshop on writing children’s books.
The workshop was today. Off I go with my lovely jug of hot tea. (Yes, I know it’s summer in Texas, and it’s roughly about 1000 degrees in the shade at 8am. You have your caffeine fix, I have mine.) One of the first things I learn is that this author has a studio less than a quarter mile from my mother’s tiny-town home (by tiny, I mean about 300 residents). It’s a small world, folks.
After about three hours, I have a couple of take-aways: 1) I have a children’s story, and 2) I don’t know what to do with it.
One of the recommended steps is to determine what age child my story is geared toward. I can honestly tell you–I don’t know. I know my main character is a child. If you push me, I’d say he’s about 7-8 years old–ish. Part of my problem is that I view this as a story to be read TO a child, not the child doing the reading. If that’s the case, why does the character’s age matter?
The next step is to plan, plot, and write said story. Done. However, current day children’s books are between 300 and 800 words, preferably under 500. Mine sits at 1100 words. Now, I haven’t worked with Myrtle the Younger yet to determine how much of the story can be illustrated, so 500 might be doable. Stay tuned.
A word about the illustrations–don’t. This is a problem. The accepted wisdom is to have the agent/publisher pair the writer with an illustrator. If that’s the case, then how am I supposed to get my work under 500 words and submit a complete concept without pictures? I’m missing something here. Along with not submitting illustrations, an children’s agent or publisher apparently likes to have multiple story submissions to keep the cash flow going. Understood. (I have one.)
It’s okay. I’ve got this. Right after another cup of hot tea.