The “P” Word
By Miranda Paul
No, I’m not referring to any cuss word or bodily functions. Or craft-related terms such as “pacing” or “plot.”
The word that’s been shocking my inner writer lately is one that often evokes a physical reaction when I’m reminded of its importance.
There, I said it.
It’s a tough one to say aloud without also slipping out a sigh or a slight roll of the eye. Am I right?
If you write children’s books—especially picture books—and you’re trying to get them traditionally published, you know how sharp the seemingly gentle and soft “P” word can really feel.
Just the other day, an excited (non-writer) friend patted me on the back and said, “Aren’t you excited? Your books come out soon, huh?”
I proceeded to reminder her that both are coming out in early 2015.
She scrunched her nose. “What’s taking them so long?”
To be honest, I’ve occasionally wanted to blurt out something similar, albeit mostly in my earlier days. (My daughter once said, "What do you mean I'll be NINE when the book comes out?!)
Now I understand that part of the picture book process involves contract negotiations, editing, illustrations, fact-checking (mine are both based on NF subjects), printing, marketing, and more.
That still doesn’t make patience an easy thing, even though I respect and understand wholeheartedly the need to slow down when it comes to good writing and the publishing process.
Right now, I’ve got a number of writer-friends struggling with the “P” word. Friends who are waiting to:
We sure do a lot of waiting, don’t we?
But all this you did know before. What you might not know are five quick strategies for getting more of the “P” word when you’ve seem to run out.
Above these, the best way to practice patience is to remember why you’re writing picture books in the first place. Let’s face it, in a world of convenience, quick apps, and self-publishing options that could have your book available for download by tonight, there’s a reason you chose to pursue THE PRINT PICTURE BOOK.
Picture books, unlike any other form of book, really, are about slowing down. They’re about craft, careful decision making, pining over each and every word. They’re not about what’s quick or convenient or trendy—at least not the ones you and your children or grandchildren cherish, I’d imagine.
If we’re in a hurry to get our books published, and we rush the process, we’re going to make mistakes that will take away some of that magic or won’t let our story’s power reach its full potential. If we plunge too quickly into self-publishing or any option we haven't really researched, or choose to “go it alone” rather than reap the benefits of a team that is provided when we traditionally publish, we assume the risk that our book won’t make it into as many laps or onto as many nightstands or library lists.
Slowing down makes our books amazing. Editors, agents, and publishers have known that the "P' word equals "power" for years. Despite the crazy emotional roller coaster writers may ride, isn’t the dream of a truly amazing book worth the wait?
Miranda Paul is the author of One Plastic Bag (Millbrook, 2015) and Water is Water (Neal Porter Books, 2015). In addition to being an instructor for the Picture Book Academy’s newest course on grammar, she is the founder and administrator of RateYourStory.org, an online service dedicated to helping writers prepare their manuscripts for submission. She's given birth (naturally) twice, which might be partially responsible for some of the discipline and patience she applies to her writing. Read more online at: www.MirandaPaul.com.