Thursday, January 11, 2018

Sprints and Marathons by Kell Andrews

To have a sustained writing career, you need to run both short and long distances. 



I'm thrilled to finally announce here that my next picture book, The Book Dragon, illustrated by Éva Chatelain, will be published in fall 2018 by Sterling Children's Books. I got the contract offer January 5. 

Are you thinking that this is moving awfully fast from contract offer to publication? Not really, since the contract offer was more than a year ago, January 5, 2017, and I wrote the story in the long-ago optimistic days of 2016. 

That's a long haul for a short book. 

Then again, publishing is always a long haul.

"It's a marathon, not a sprint." Or is it?

To the contrary, writing a picture book is a sprint. It takes a lot longer to write each word in a 500 page book, but it does not (with rare exceptions) take as long as a 50,000 one. Rewriting is another sprint, maybe the next heat, while writing the next story is another race entirely.

To have a career in picture books, you need to string those sprints together until they approach something like a marathon. Last year I drafted and polished six manuscripts, and I'm not even prolific. So far I'm sprinting again and again, with the results being an every-other-year publishing schedule. That's a lot of writing for each published manuscript.

Novels are marathons. Or are they?

Novels are marathon you can turn into sprints. Writing a novel is a daunting process. It takes months or even years. Staring down an empty page, putting your butt in that chair day after day -- it's intimidating.

It's a marathon that I personally need to break into sprints to make it manageable. Half-hour writing sprints, writing by act, even middle-distance events like NaNo can put manageable interim goals into place so you don't have to stare down that long, long distance from the blank page to "the end."

And when you're lucky enough to get a contract, you inevitably have a few more sprints ahead -- revisions often land back in the writer's inbox at the worst times, and with not enough time attached. 

It's always a long haul.

Yes, even for picture books, maybe even especially, since illustrated books tend to take longer from contract to publication. There's an excellent chance my Fall 2018 date will change into a Spring 2019 one.

That's OK. It gives me plenty of time fit in a half-dozen sprints, or even a full marathon.


  1. Congratulations on your new book! I look forward to reading it.

  2. I love the photo you chose for the beginning of this post!
    Congratulations on getting a contract offer to start the year!

  3. Great analogy, Kell!!!! Congrats on your new book!!!!


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!