One of the questions I get asked most often at author presentations is how long does it take to write a picture book biography.
The simple answer is that it takes as long as it takes.
That’s the complicated answer, too.
There’s a hope and expectation that the longer we work at this craft of writing children’s books, the easier and faster it gets. Well, that’s true in some ways, but not in others. My first book, The William Hoy Story, took 13 years from the promise I made my friend, Steve Sandy, a friend of the Hoy family, that I would write this book, to the year it got published. You can chalk a lot of those years up to not knowing what I didn’t know about writing children’s books. When I finally got it through my head that I had to learn a new art form and started taking classes, doing challenges, getting critique partners and joining supportive writing groups, things accelerated.
Aha! I thought, holding my beautiful first-born book in my hands. I figured it all out! But while my second book, Manjhi Moves a Mountain, was comparatively quick, at several months, it wasn’t a straight shot from my head to the page. And my upcoming book, Beautiful Shades of Brown, which is part of the NF Fest giveaway, took four years from first manuscript to publication in 2020. So what happened?
Every opportunity to learn, including from the upcoming NF Fest challenge in February from the Nonfiction Chicks, will bring light to your journey. But while light may save you some stumbles, no one can make the journey but you, step by step, into an unknown place, crafting a story that has yet to be written. No one but you can be the hero or heroine of your writing quest, charging into empty space to build a place for a story to live where there was once only an unfathomable void.
Sometimes it will be obvious where to lay the bricks and wood and glass, to see how the pieces fit together. Other times you may get stuck, fumbling with words. You’ll marvel when they spark fire – what a feeling! And you’ll sigh and try to persevere as they crash and topple in your brain while you’re working with all your might to craft the details that will give your story room to breathe.
In other words, it takes as long as it takes.
Keep going and you’ll get there. Remember: to the stubborn, belong the spoils.
We are nonfiction authors who support readers and writers through our writing, author visits, and workshops.
The Nonfiction Ninjas are a group of writers with diverse ideas and a strong belief in The First Amendment. The views expressed in each post are those of the author and may differ from others in the group.
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