WRITING ADVICE FOR QUARANTINE AND BEYOND!
The Soaring ‘20s is a group of authors and illustrators who have come together to support each other as we debut picture books in 2020 (and in some cases, 2021). You can find us on Twitter (@Soaring20sPB) and Instagram (Soaring20sPB). Check out our website at https://www.soaring20spb.com/ to learn about our books, our bios, and to access our resources and blog. Many thanks to Rate Your Story, a wonderful resource for children’s writers and illustrators!
In this post, several of our authors and illustrators share their favorite writing advice as well as tips for working effectively and staying creative during quarantine.
What are some ways you have found to be creative and to work effectively during the quarantine?
“While sheltering in place, one of my regular practices has become even more important: getting up each morning at 5:25 a.m. (while the rest of my house sleeps), checking in with my accountability partner, and writing for one hour BEFORE checking news, email, or social media. During our 5:25 a.m. check in, we set a goal or intention for our work, and afterward we report back in on our progress. With children and a spouse at home, this time period is often the only time I have for uninterrupted creative work, but I’m always amazed at what I can accomplish an hour at a time. Even if you aren’t a morning person, you can hopefully find one uninterrupted hour (or even a half hour) when you can turn off the news and social media and embrace your creativity.”
- Kirsten Larson, author of WOOD, WIRE, WINGS: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane and the upcoming THE FIRE OF STARS: The Life and Brilliance of the Woman Who Discovered What Stars Are Made Of
“Getting work done during the quarantine with two small boys at home has been so hard! I've found that I have to stop expecting to get stuff done on a regular basis, so anything I do get done is a bonus. And I've been asking my husband and in-laws to watch the kids some weekends so I have time to work. I am definitely anxious that I'm not getting more done, but I'm grateful that I even have the help that I do!”
“More than ever it’s important to take care of ourselves and nurture our creativity in positive and mindful ways. Writing and reading are the most obvious ones, but also enjoying all the extra family time we’re getting and finding fun ways to face the new normal in our lives. The dreaded extra chores? Learning new skills? Face them with added curiosity and let your mind open for all the possible idea and solution generating connections. Stepping outside my comfort zone and into new activities was probably one of the best things I did to keep my writing life moving along.”
What is the best writing/illustrating advice you can share that has worked well for you?
“I remember once hearing that the first draft is the easier one - let your creativity and words flow. Just get them on the page! That is great advice. But the follow-up comment was the one that has made a difference to me: when my work is critiqued (and notice it is not “you” being critiqued), just listen. LISTEN. You don’t have to agree, you don’t have to make the changes advised - but if you are in a defensive stance, you will not hear the little nugget of information that might just change your entire manuscript for the better!”
“The best piece of writing advice I can share is something that I read many years ago in the book Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul. She advises typing out the text of published picture books on a regular basis. When I started doing this, I found that it was incredibly helpful to my process. First, it helped me see how much (or better stated - how little) text there is on a typical picture book page. Generally, a sentence or two at most. I realized my stories would need to get a LOT shorter. Second, it helped me understand the subtle art of the page turn that is so unique to picture book writing. A strong picture book makes the reader want to keep turning the pages to find out what happens in the next scene. Typing out texts also helped me notice how successful writers use rhythm, repetition, and structure in their stories. And even to this day, typing out a picture book text can help me ease into my own writing for the day, especially if I’m feeling unmotivated or uninspired. There’s something about the physical act of typing words on a screen (even when they’re not mine) that jump starts my thinking.”
“By my desk, I keep a framed picture of the Winston Churchill quotation, ‘Never, never, never give up.’ Every time I feel stuck or uninspired or I open another rejection letter, I look at it. It always reminds me that this is a tough business, but a worthy and rewarding one. Then I put my pencil to paper and get back to writing.”
“Recently, I came up with an idea for a scene in my current YA WIP rucking downtown. I was subjected to a pesticide commercial because I still refuse to pay for Spotify and thought of the most exquisite metaphor. One of the best pieces of writing advice that has worked for me is that writing isn't always committing words to paper. Bouncing to bomba while you soap pots and pans can be writing. Yanking weeds can be writing. Mashing plantains in your abuela's pilon can be writing. The writer's mind is always at work. Sometimes it needs space to fill space.”
“My advice to other writers, based on my journey, would be to get out into the writing community. Check out the offerings at the Institute of Children’s Literature and join The Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI). Both offered me a wonderful way to get feedback on my work and to improve my craft. It was through SCBWI that I met my first critique partners and we started 24 Carrot Writing (www.24carrotwriting.com), a blog for writers, that has been offering help and advice to fellow writers for over five years. I met my future editor, Karen Boss of Charlesbridge, when I took her class at The Writers’ Loft. The best thing I did to move my writing along the path to publication was to connect with fellow writers, take classes and workshops, offer my own help and advice, listen to editors and agents, and become a part of the KidLit community. I think the community will reward you for your efforts – it did for me.”