Wow this year is flying by already. Why? Because many of the classes I wanted to take this year piled up here at the beginning.
If you are a writer, who's endgame is being traditionally published, you need to invest in yourself and your craft. I don't mean you need to get a PhD in writing (although, hey that would be pretty awesome). I do mean you need to invest time, energy, and if you have some to spare money. I've touched on this before but lets look deeper.
Ways to invest in yourself:
Online Blogs (FREE)
Google is your friend. I found Query Shark while googling about queries. There aren't many picture book examples, which is what I was looking for when I found it, but WHO CARES. The information there can be applied to anything query related.
This is just one example. There are sites for rhyme, rhythm, word counts, agent research, pacing, plotting, structure, illustration. Put in the time but be focused. The internet is full of white rabbits that can lead you astray from your original goal. We've all been there. Looking for a dinner recipe and then ending up looking at cat videos.
Some that I have found:
12 x 12
Manuscript Wish List
Writing for Kids While Raising Them - Tara Lazar
There are MANY MANY more but those are a few go to's for me.
Conferences (Not Free)
It goes almost without saying that conferences are a great resource for writers and illustrators. You can learn about craft, publishing as a whole, what agents and editors are looking for and in many cases you can sign up for critiques from industry pros and even intensives.
We can't all afford to go to the big ones but check your local SCBWI or whichever group you are a part of.... which is a great Segway too...
Writing/Illustrating Organizations (Usually an Annual Fee)
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators aka SCBWI is outstanding. They have conferences, regional groups-which can help find you local critique partners, online discussion boards, awards and grants, and more.
This is the only one I am a part of but find one for your genre. SCBWI helped me find critique partners who are AMAZING! My work only gets stronger as others help me see the weak spots in my WIPs. I have attended conferences where I've schmoozed with writers, illustrators, agents, editors. And by schmoozed I mean bonded over long bathroom lines and shared love of the amazing dessert brownies. At a meet and greet I even ended up on a trivia team with THREE editors and another author. It was great fun and no pressure to pitch.
Books on Craft (Free at Library or Purchase at Your Local Bookstore)
Many people have favorites. Agents and Editors will post their recommendations. Seriously, hop on Twitter or Facebook and ask and I'm sure other writerly folks will be happy to suggest books. Look in your genre or for the specific area you need. There are books galore.
There are classes online, intensives at conferences, webinars, and at colleges. I've attended four webinars so far this year. All were helpful, two were exactly what I personally needed for my manuscripts. Sometimes these are free, or low cost. More often than not you will need to invest money. I used gift cards from the holiday to splurge on two that I wouldn't have otherwise taken. Instead of shoes for your birthday, ask for a class.
This is another area where writing organizations can be helpful. I found a chapter book webinar for $10.00 on the SCBWI discussion boards, know as the blue boards. Another writer was kind enough to post about it and seriously, $10.00 is an easy investment.
Larger investments need to be worked into your budget but that doesn't make them a pipe dream. Just a goal you may need to save up for. But really, if you want to be something, then you need to DO something. So grab a book, hop onto a craft technique blog, or finally look into that class you are always telling yourself you'll take. Invest in your writing.
A word to the wise though. Don't let all the research and learning get in the way of the actual writing.