Writing Nonfiction: How to Get Started

startA writer that I just met asked me how I started writing nonfiction for children.  The answer is simple.  An editor asked for manuscripts, and I said “yes.”

When I started writing for children, I followed the same path as a lot of new children’s writers.  I wrote picture books.  They weren’t altogether awful but they didn’t quite sing.  I kept working on them which meant attending a critique group.  One night, Tammy Duncan, a friend that I knew through the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators came to the meeting.  “I just bought Young Equestrian Magazine,” she said.  “I need articles.”

Most of what I was working on at that were picture books although I had written and sold one rebus.  I hadn’t written anything for a tween audience and I certainly hadn’t written nonfiction about horses.  Still, I loved Marguerite Henry and pitched a profile to Tammy.  She said yes and I got busy.  Eventually, I had 18 articles to my credit and I had learned a lot.

  • She taught me about market (kid’s interests vs. adult interests).
  • She taught me to always have one eye on the gate keepers (adults do PG things).
  • She rewrote my leads (and I studied them).
  • And she helped me learn to interview kids (without also interviewing mom).

Accepting Tammy’s challenge was probably the smartest move I’ve ever made.  I now have over 400 sales and only two of them are fiction.  I am most definitely a nonfiction writer.

If you are interesting in learning to write nonfiction, my class Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults starts on April 7th.


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