by Geary Smith


Why was my children’s story submission rejected? I worked long and hard on the story and just knew it would be accepted this time.


That is the question many inspiring children’s writers asked themselves when reading over rejection letters. Most rejection letters will simply read, “not just right for our needs at this time”. Sometimes this statement leaves a writer feeling perplexed not knowing exactly the meaning of the rejection letter. And, if you are lucky, and the editor has a little free time, they might write a nice personal note and some other suggestions. I always smile when editors take the time to write anything on my submissions. It means that the editors took the time to write and make suggestions and that I must be getting closer to being accepted. Then, I would take time to seriously study and ponder their suggestions, revise my story and resubmit.


But if you are writing for children here are some tips to help you avoid getting those rejection letters:


Have a Relatable Main Character:  Your main character should be easily recognizable to your young readers. Someone around the readers’ age who is facing situations they can easily relate to.


Create Conflict:  Create a true conflict that the reader believes is important, and raises the stakes emotionally for your character.


Be Early:  Place the conflict early in the story. I soon realized in my early writing that by placing a conflict early in the story would grab the readers’ attention and make them want to stick around to see how the conflict would be resolved.


Movement:  Establish good pacing in your story to keep the pages turning. The flow of the action is especially important in picture books that are meant to be read out loud to children.


Solve Problems:  Be sure to have your main character solve the conflict. I know many times when reading over my stories, that the older person would solve the conflicts. However, I was much more successful when allowing the main character to think, reason and come up with their own solutions. (In some cases adults can offer help, but the main character must take those final steps on his or her own.)


Close with a satisfying ending that is surprising, not predictable.


Give your story a unique plot with the appropriate grade level and word count. Be very careful not to have violence, scary or inappropriate scenes for the younger audience. And never preach to the reader, regardless of the age. Readers will learn by watching your characters grow through the events of the plot.


Check for spelling and grammar. This last step might sound obvious, but so many times there are simply grammatical errors that are overlooked.


In conclusion, writing for children can be very subjective and there can be many reasons for rejections.  Some things might be out of your control.  Maybe the editor has published or has a similar piece on hand.  Or maybe, the editor was just having a bad day and rejected everything.  Who knows?  However, I assure you if you keep writing, revising, learning and growing as a writer you will be successful. And, once you are in love with your story, I am sure you will find an editor who will love it too.


Geary Smith has been writing for children and young adults for over 30 years. His work has been published by Highlights for Children, Child Life, McGraw-Hill, ProQuest and many other publications. He has won the Pewter Plate Award from Highlights for Children. Geary has a B.S. in Psychology from Morehouse College and M.Ed. from Stephen F. Austin University. He is a certified Life Coach and Counselor, Assistant Minister and City Councilman/Mayor Pro Tem

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