Wednesday, January 3, 2018


Writing is full of ups and downs—the adrenaline rush of getting something published may be followed by months of rejections, sluggish sales, or radio silence from editors. Sometimes it’s tempting to just throw in the towel. But your writing career is a marathon, not a sprint. Take a long view to ensure that you don’t fizzle out after the first lap. Here are some suggestions to help you set yourself up for writing success in 2018 and beyond.

1. Scope out the competition
Any good athlete needs to know their competition. Read the newest books in your genre to stay abreast of trends. Browse the shelves at your local bookstore or categories of interest on Amazon. Which books practically leap into your cart, and why? Consider how you can imbue your own books with that magical quality.

2. Build your endurance
Marathoners don’t start off running 26 miles. It’s great to have lofty goals as a writer. But while you’re waiting for that book contract, you can build your resume by writing for magazines, newspapers, the SCBWI Bulletin, blogs, etc. Not only will you gain publishing credits, you will gain experience working with editors and connections in the publishing industry. The educational market is another great way to get published and build your skills.

3. Hone your skills
Complacency never won any races, and I’ve never met a successful writer who did not keep studying their craft. Continue to improve your skills by taking classes, attending conferences, and participating in challenges or contests. Getting regular feedback from critique partners and industry professionals is essential as well.

4. Specialize
To attain excellence in any sport, an athlete needs to specialize. Writers can also benefit from focusing on a niche. This niche can be narrow or broad. Most of my books generally fall under the umbrella of science, nature, and agriculture, so I consider that my niche. Maybe your niche is humor or history. Consider what you can become (or already are) an expert in, and how you can become known for that expertise this year.

5. Invest in good gear
There’s no law against running a marathon in jeans and flip-flops, as far as I know, but people will take you more seriously if you look like a runner. As a writer, you have a public image to uphold as well. Make sure your social media and website look professional and represent you well as a children’s writer. Agents and editors can and will check out your online presence – don’t miss out on an opportunity because you can’t resist snarking on Twitter or bashing your former agent on your blog. Your website should look neat and focus on what you have to offer your audience. If you haven’t yet established an online presence, make that a goal for 2018.

6. Join a team
Even in an individual sport like running, a partner can provide much-needed motivation and support. Writers need a team as well. Participate in challenges, classes, conferences, Facebook groups, or your local SCBWI chapter to network and build friendships with other writers. We need each other’s support, both before and after publication. What new ways can you connect in 2018?

7. Run the race
My marathon-running friends sign up for races far ahead of time to motivate themselves to train. The publishing industry moves incredibly slowly most of the time. In order to keep your career in motion, it’s important to plan ahead. Keep making contacts and submitting your work throughout the year. Set yourself monthly goals for submissions, or find an accountability partner. Book speaking events or sign up for workshops to help impose deadlines on yourself. 

Here’s to a happy and healthy New Year filled with writing success!

Lisa Amstutz, author & RYS Judge
Lisa Amstutz loves to make New Year’s resolutions, even though they usually fizzle out by February. She is the author of more than 80 children’s books and numerous magazine and newspaper articles. Lisa serves as a volunteer judge at Rate Your Story and as Assistant Regional Advisor for Northern Ohio SCBWI. She offers website, manuscript, and educational packet critiques. For more information, see