We’re All in This Together: Surprise! Things You Didn’t Know About the Writing Life Post #1

What is the hardest thing you didn’t know you’d encounter as a writer?

Why did that thing surprise you and how did you handle it?

These were questions I posed to our WAITT writers, and I love their responses. One thing you’ll see as a common thread–writing is not for the faint of heart. There is hard work–learning the craft and learning the business. And there is struggle. But we still write.

Carol Munro

Freelance Writer, Editor, Workshop Leader


Well, this feels like confession time. The thing I didn’t expect to encounter is how the fear of success –not failure, but success – would get in my way.

It wasn’t until I looked back at my actions – such as getting requests from editors for something else I’ve written and not following up – that I realized I was sabotaging my success. It took some soul searching to figure out why.

There were many reasons, but I won’t get into them. Instead, here’s the most important thing I learned: What made me stop fearing success was changing my reasons for wanting to be published. Now it’s about the work, learning about the craft and improving my writing. It’s about playing with imagination and the satisfaction of creating something I like. It’s about wanting to share my writing with others who’ll get a kick out of it. Whether I get a book published or not, doing the work is my success.


Lori Degman

Author of 1 Zany Zoo and Cock-a-Doodle Oops!


One thing I found out, after publishing my first book, was how hard it is to sell subsequent manuscripts!  I really thought, once my book was published, editors would want my other stories – NOT!  I especially thought the editor of my first book would want the sequel, especially since I like it so much more than the first one – NOT!

I was also surprised by how much self-promotion you need to do and the fact that it doesn’t always increase sales.

On a positive note: when I first began writing, I had never heard of SCBWI so I didn’t know what an amazing resource it is and how supportive and generous the kidlit community is!


Donna L Sadd

Author of  LUCCI- The No Smoochie Poochie


When I set out to be a children’s writer, I wanted to do rhyming stories most of all. I’ve always thought myself to be a very good rhymer, until I started having my rhyming picture book stories critiqued. Many critiques said the meter or rhythm was off.

I set off to learn more about the ‘scansion’ of a poem. The hard thing is that I absolutely cannot grasp stressed and unstressed syllables. I know how the poem reads, but it won’t be obvious for readers so this all has to be ‘perfect’, as you’ll hear folks in this business say all the time.

I have a rhyming story that I adore, so I finally paid to have it edited, and am working with that editor to improve my skills. I know it’s just a matter of time before it all ‘clicks’ for me.


Alayne Kay Christian

Author of “Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa”


My answer will cover the first three things that popped into my head. I don’t know if they are the hardest things I’ve encountered, but they are in my head, so here goes. . . .

1. The “500 words or less” rule for picture books.

Everything that I had read prior to writing my first book, and even some courses I took, all stated picture book word counts should be 1,500 or less. When I went to my first SCBWI conference and heard “500 words. 500 words.” being repeated at every turn, I was shocked. Since then, I have tried to create shorter stories. And I am enjoying the challenge. However, I refuse to let the “500 words or less rule” rule me. Some stories are just meant to be a little longer.

2. There is a LOT of competition out there.

Can you believe that when I first started out, I was so naïve that I didn’t realize this? Well, I was. I was locked up in my creative world, unaware of what was happening around me. One thing that I was painfully aware of was celebrity authored picture books. It felt unfair to me that fame seemed to be a free ticket to publication. Recently, one of my wise friends commented that celebrity books help support the publishers so that they can afford to take a chance on some unknown authors. I like that positive twist. As far as competition, I handle that by getting to know my competition and enjoying them as friends. Over the last several years, I have made friends with many writers and published authors, and I feel like we are family. As this series says, “We’re All in This Together.” And that is a good thing.

3. Writing/publishing is a super-duper subjective game.

Doesn’t it stand to reason, if I love my story that everyone will love my story? That’s what that naïve writer from my past started out thinking. So, how does this experienced author handle the knowledge that everyone does not love my stories? I let it roll off, and keep on keeping on. And I continue focusing on doing what I love. I write, and I write, and I write. . . .


Stay tuned until tomorrow when more writers talk more about the hardest thing in their writing life or what surprised them the most.

Now, you tell us:

What is the hardest thing you didn’t know you’d encounter as a writer?

Why did that thing surprise you and how did you handle it?

Feel free to share in the comments.


  1. When you asked this question, Marcie, there were so many things I didn’t know that I couldn’t write it in a short paragraph. Ditto to Lori’s publishing credit and marketing. Ditto to Donna’s rhyming discovery. Ditto to Alayne’s subjective game. These were all great lessons! And I liked that Carol reflected on the reasons for wanting to be published. I’ll go reflect on that now. Thanks for sharing everyone!

  2. Another interesting WAITT post, Marcie. Thanks! Carol, I love the way you turned your problem around by changing your reason for writing. And you have some excellent reasons! What a difference that must have made in your writing life. Lori, the self-promotion aspect of being published surprised me as well. Sometimes, it can be a lot of work with seemingly little payoff. I like to think that it has a snowball effect over time. By the way, I got an Amazon email the other day that suggested “1 Zany Zoo” as a book I might like. It was the first book on the page. I had to smile when I saw it and your name. Congrats! I look forward to reading it. Donna, it’s good to see you have joined the WAITT team. I have the same problem with stressed and unstressed syllables. I have a strong mental block. I get it. Yet, when I try to apply it, it all goes out the window. Unlike you, I gave up on rhyme. Now, you have inspired me to reconsider. I will be discussing this with you on the side 🙂