This past week I’ve been thinking a lot about the agent’s advice that I focus for a while on nonfiction. Specifically, I’ve pondered what my day-to-day writing life might be like if I applied that sort of focus.

I like what I’ve come up with. Besides the obvious — my nonfiction projects would take top priority, and with The Day-Glo Brothers off my hands I’d need to think seriously about delving into a new research topic — I’ve identified lots of little differences that might result.

Here are three that come to mind:

  • I’ve always got a to-read list (or three or four) of children’s books, and they’re all over the map — picture books, middle grade, YA, plus nonfiction in all three categories. If I were to concentrate on that last group, and really get to know well the work of Russell Freedman, Susan Campbell Bartoletti, James Cross Giblin, Jim Murphy, etc., how might my own work benefit?
  • My long and growing list of regular blog reads reflects my lack of specialization, and it’s eating my writing time alive. I can’t imagine reading only nonfiction-related blogs, but I sure could better organize my blog reading so that those more pertinent to my focus get more attention more often.
  • Several months ago I subscribed to several children’s literature e-mail lists. They still arrive by the boatload, but now I don’t read a single one. What am I missing? If I don’t find a way to pare away what’s not relevant, I’ll never know. But if I were to filter out those that don’t discuss nonfiction, I might find something really worthwhile in what remains.

When I first received that agent’s advice, I expected to buck and chafe at the mere notion of focusing on one genre of writing, even if it was just for the time being. But the more I think about it, the more sense it makes, and the more right it feels.

If that changes, I’ll say so here.