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WOW! Women On Writing is an e-zine that promotes the communication between women writers, authors, editors, agents, publishers and readers. Our blog (AKA: The Muffin) posts about women and writing, publishing industry news, and updates for our quarter
1. Learning From Mistakes






It’s a fact that I’ve learned a whole lot more from my writing mistakes than from my writing successes. Take, for example, the chapter book debacle.

The first manuscript I wrote was an 8,000-ish word chapter book called, "Eddie’s Chance to Dance." Except that I didn’t really know it was a chapter book. I just thought it was a charming tale that might be a tad short for juvenile fiction.

Then somebody told me it was a chapter book. Well, okay, no need to be all smartypants about it. It wasn’t like I hadn’t heard of chapter books. I’d bought a ton of them for my kiddies. I just hadn’t…what’s the word again? Oh, yeah. Read many of them. So I thought I’d better brush up on chapter books.

I checked out shelves full of these slim books from my local library and read every single one. And what I realized, after all that brushing up, was that my chapter book was not very good. Or to put it another way, Eddie didn’t stand a tap shoe's chance of getting published.

I’d made a big mistake. I dashed off a chapter book before I knew much about what makes a good chapter book. It seems like an obvious concept, to research before you write, but you’d be surprised how often writers (and I’m including myself here) will write something willy-nilly and expect the world (and I’m including mostly editors here) to love it.

I figured out a few things after all that reading, and not just about chapter books. For example, if I want to write for a market, say a webzine like WOW!Women-on-Writing, I’ll read a ton of issues before making a pitch. If I have a mystery novel in mind, I’ll read a couple Edgar Award winners before pounding out 50,000 words. And now that I write fiction for the kiddies, I’ve read picture books on the Caldecott Medal list, and chapter books and middle grade on the Newbery Medal list, and young adult novels on the Printz Award list. These days, I do my reading research.

Lesson learned.

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