I’ve been working on two new nonfiction books the past few weeks. I originally wrote six books on different ecosystems for Picture Window Books a few years ago. They contacted me recently to ask if I could write two more, on a very quick turnaround. I said yes and started putting books on reserve at the library.
What’s been interesting to me is how different they feel. The two topics are Tundras and Coral Reefs. I started with Tundras, and that one has been kind of a grind. I found plenty of books, but they were mostly children’s books from other educational publishers. I found online resources, too. But somehow, the information all has a bit of piece-it-together feel to it. There’s also some disagreement among the books. Some say polar tundra includes areas near both the South and North Pole, while others say there is Arctic Tundra, near the North Pole, but no tundra at all in the southern hemisphers. And they all agree the other type of tundra is Alpine Tundra, found on high mountainsides. I’m just having a tough time getting it to all gel properly.
So, once I finally worked out my structure (these are short books and I need to condense all my basic material into 9 spreads with 3-8 brief sentences per spread), I left my notes to take a break and work on Coral Reefs.
What a difference! I guess coral reefs are a sexier ecosystem than tundras, because books and resources abound. Books for adults, lovely photo-filled coffee table books, in-depth books about life in a coral reef…And because they’re a threatened ecosystem, many reputable organizations and governments have websites or at least webpages about them. And because they exist in tropical areas and are a big tourist draw (unlike, ahem, tundras), there is just more information easily available.
This week, I have to return to the Tundra and actually write my first draft, after letting my notes sit for a week while I worked on the Coral Reef research.
Anyway, it’s been a good reminder to me of this aspect of writing work for hire nonfiction books. You can write two books for the exact same series, with the exact same guidelines, for the exact same payment, and one can feel almost like a vacation while the other feels a little like a forced march (across a cold, boggy plain with weak sunlight and lots of mosquitoes).
But, as usual, I’m learning lots of interesting facts and getting ideas for other writing activities based on this research. So it will all be worth it in the end…
Check out the Nonfiction Monday roundupat Anastasia Suen’s Picture Book of the Day blog here!
If you’re interested in learning how to get into writing for the educational market, I’ll be teaching in two different formats soon.
On July 27, I’ll be teaching an all-day workshop at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. This in-person workshop is a look at the educational market, what it’s like to write for them, and how to put together an introductory packet to start sending to publishers.
From July 22 to August 22, I’ll be teaching my online workshop, Writing Children’s Nonfiction Book for the Educational Market. This intense online workshop walks you through the entire process, so that at the end of the month, you are ready to start sending out packets to educational publishers. You can get all the details, see student comments, etc. here.