1. Write whenever you are inspired. Jot it down in a notebook, in the notes function on your phone, or on a scrap of paper. It doesn't matter where, as long as you get it down. And write as much as you have in your head. Capture the feelings you have. Don't think you'll remember it all later. You won't.
2. Write from the heart. Write from emotion, from your right brain, the hub of creativity. Write in a state of flow. Your left brain can wait its turn. The editing process is where its ability to think analytically and make decisions will come into play.
3. Discover your voice. This can take time. Creative writing activities can help you explore different genres and writing for various age groups. From picture books, junior fiction, to middle-grade fiction and young adult - and you can then find your niche within these. The online course, Scribbles by Jen Storer of Girl and Duck is highly recommended for encouraging your creative spirit to shine.
4. Develop your skills. Your local writers' centre is a good place to start to develop your craft. Some centres offer online courses which provide flexibility and ease of access. There are also plenty of online courses and podcasts that can help you learn all there is to know about the art of writing for children. The podcast by the Australian Writers' Centre, So You Want to be a Writer, is a popular one, while skillshare.com offers an endless array of online courses in the creative arts.
5. Join professional associations for children's writers. Become a member of the Children's Book Council of Australia (CBCA) and the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and get connected to your local group or chapter. You don't need to wait until you are published to get involved. They'll have events, critique groups and other opportunities to help you on your way. These groups tend to have a lovely mix of aspiring, emerging and established writers and illustrators, so don't be shy!
6. Subscribe to industry newsletters. Online newsletters such as Buzz Words and Pass it On are also a great way of getting the latest news on events that are coming up, and also the lowdown on which publishers are currently open for submissions.
7. Attend events. Go to as many as you can. Conferences, festivals, book launches. KidLitVit run annually in Melbourne is a popular conference well-attended by publishers, as is CYA in Brisbane. There is also Writers Unleashed and Creative Kids Tales Festival held each year in Sydney. You will pick up tips, make useful connections, and also make some lovely literary friends.
8. Find your tribe. You need people around you who understand the process of writing and the industry. Surround yourself with people who understand how inspiring, fun, and uplifting it can be, but can also help you navigate the inevitable lows.
9. Be open to critique. This will help you grow as a writer and help you refine your manuscripts. Sometimes you can be too closely involved with the work to be able to step back and take an objective look at it. Ways of receiving feedback on your writing are though critique groups (either in-person or online), through paid manuscript assessments, and also through paid critique sessions with publishers at conferences and festivals.
10. Filter the informal feedback. People not in the industry may give you well-intentioned but misleading information, or may make unhelpful or even mean-spirited comments. Learn to take on board the information that is truly helpful and let the rest slide on by.
11. Cherish your champions. You're hopefully going to have at least a few people who truly care about your progress and who support you along the way. Look after these lovely souls, for they are your champions.
12. Use social media wisely. You can use social media to set up your author platform. It is a great way to find your style, explore different avenues of creativity, and also connect with other creative types. Don't try to do to much too soon though, you want to leave time for actual writing. Social media can also be a black hole when it comes to procrastination.
13. Enter writing competitions. They offer deadlines which can be immensely valuable in pushing you to work harder than you otherwise would. Some competitions offer feedback which can be very helpful. If you are long-listed, short-listed, or win the competition, then you've also got something to add to your online CV to show your dedication to learning your craft.
14. Submit your work. Once you feel your work has been edited, refined, buffed and polished, it's time to send it to a publisher. Make a list of publishers that you feel your manuscript would fit well with, and check if they are currently open for submissions. You can do this using information from your industry newsletters and also from the Australian Writer's Marketplace which is now online. Look at the publisher's website for submission guidelines and follow them carefully.
15. Have more than one manuscript on the go. Once you've submitted to a publisher it may be up six months (or more!) before you hear back with a yay or a nay, so it's important to have more than one manuscript or project to be working on. Due to the time and resourcing pressures that publishers face, you may not actually receive a rejection letter or email, it may just be the absence of contact that will let you know that your manuscript has not been accepted this time.
16. Keep your chin up. If you are learning and progressing, then you are moving a step closer to publication. If you're in the game, then you're winning, right?
17. Support other writers. When you're buying presents for your friends and family, consider buying a book. It's something they can enjoy, keep forever, or share with others. And you get the joy of knowing that you have supported a writer who has worked so hard to get to the point of publication. Festivals and conferences often have a bookshop set up so you can purchase books, and writers often do book-signings as part of this, making your gift super-special!.
18. Love what you do. This is the long-game kind of thing. You need to truly love it to keep at it.