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Saturday, 28 May 2011

Survival of the Fittest

Any wildebeest will tell you that the Key to Survival is Adaptation. Eat or be eaten, prey or be preyed upon. But how exactly does this translate to writing and in particular children's writing? And how does adaption lead to success? Let's have a brief search through the savannah for the answers...

1. Adapt your hunting and housekeeping requirements to the bare basics. Pretty soon your family will Adapt to the idea that the floor of their den looks far better with dust than without. Teach them how to hunt their own wildebeest and encourage them to watch Masterchef more.

2. Adapt with the times. Study the herd. Recognise and acknowledge trends. You don't have to follow them and write what every one else is writing. Far better not to. But by astute listening, reading and watching you will soon be able to figure out what (still) works, sells and more importantly is favoured by readers. One of my favourite methods is to stand quietly in the children's section of any library and watch them, any age group, deliberate over what to choose from the shelves. Listening to their excited recommendations to friends and parents is priceless market research.

3. Adapt your thinking. You might be an old lion and afraid of new tricks but never think just because you can make your words sound pretty in a sentence that you have it all. Be on the hunt for new techniques, ideas and methods to enhance your skills. Attend workshops, blog other writers' sites, visit writing festivals, enter competitions, learn about the industry, join writers' groups Anything that gives you more tools to help you sharpen your edge (claws).

4.  Adapt yourself to the life of a well known author (if you're not one already!) OK we've assumed the pov of the wildebeest now so, blend in. At first at least by attending launches, festivals, bookish events. Not only are they an often fun and relaxed way of meeting like minded others but can also allow you time to get to know industry personnel, publishers, editors and agents. Foster your professionalism at all times in these circumstances. Don't stalk them into the toilets and try to ram your latest manuscript down their throats.

5. Adapt to conditions. When that deadline is creeping up on you, don't feign nonchalance and continue grazing like you've got all the time under the sun to do it. You know you don't. The better able you are to meet publishers requirements, submission guidelines or competition entry instructions the better chance you'll have of being recognised as a more attractive prospect. Remember you're in a herd of millions with similar aspirations (consider trying to crack the picture book market!) The aim is to get your head above the crowd. And when you do get noticed, be prepared to run very very fast. The route to publication requires a whole new focus and strength to complete.

6. Adapt to disappointments. The thicker your hide the better protection you'll have against future scathing book reviews and school visits that go awry. Rejections in any form are hide enhancing. Get used to them. Rejoice in getting them.

7. Adapt to Opportunity. Second chances are rare in life whether you be wildebeest, lion or struggling children's author. Make the most of the ones that do happen your way. Seize the moment. Be prepared to launch your thirty second pitch about yourself or your book to anybody who has ears or eyes any where and at any time. Because you never know who is listening or watching...

Yes it can seem daunting at first. But the key is to never ever give up or let your guard down. From what I can tell, writers themselves are a fairly non judgemental, non predatory, encouraging bunch happy to pass on their own tales of Adaptation and Survival to ensure that you don't make the same mistakes. Listen to them, adapt them to suit your own style and goals and one day success is sure to stare back at you.

The rest we know is a matter of pure chance and timing!