Planning, you say? Why, I never thought of it!

My dears,

you may have noticed my absence over the past month or so.

This is due to the fact that, despite my letters to complain about this, there are still only 24 hours in a day, and only 7 of those damn things in a week.

The trouble is, I decided in the middle of this year to make a concerted effort to do some serious writing. Writing that I would send out. Out into the wide world, my friends, instead of just self-publishing it here on my beloved blog.

And I found that I just don’t have the time to do that and write a blog post every week. Particularly because I’m trying to put a lot of effort into the non-blog writing, to reach a certain standard that, let’s face it, I just don’t always reach when I hurriedly type up a blog post before quickly getting changed and going out to dinner. (*exactly what I will be doing about 13 minutes from now.)

So I got all organised-like. I wrote myself out a plan, like. A real plan with specific goals and deadlines and all that. I was quite surprised at myself, I gotta tell ya.

I discovered that a writing plan can be pretty simple. Mine lists specific tasks: for example, I’ve listed 2-3 specific pieces of writing with an action to “find suitable market and send out for publication” and I’ve picked out 1-2 call outs for a themed piece of writing, and listed those with the action “write up a draft idea for this call out.” It’s not brain surgery, as it turns out. Then, I’ve listed some overall goals to achieve in that time, eg: 1 piece accepted, and 1 new piece written. Keeping it very realistic is the key, guys.

Anyway, I seem to recall that I bored you all by telling you about my newfound planning skills (they are not immense but they are apparently in existence) a few months ago, at the time of the Inaugral June To August Plan.

Since then, I have moved seamlessly on to the August To November Plan, and I’ve just popped over here today to let you know that, to my astonishment, this planning and goal setting has been going quite well. (Who knew that planning and goal-setting worked?) (Every freelance writer out there, I imagine. Or anyone who has attended a productivity workshop in their workplace in the last few years.)

Anyway, by quite well, I mean that since embarking on this new approach, I’ve had one piece of writing accepted and published on an online literary journal (if you don’t mind!) and a second piece accepted (not yet published), by a zine. (Which I think will be online as well as available in hard copy.)

Needless to say, in that time, I’ve also had about 8 rejections, and of course, some of those were for the piece that has now been accepted into the zine. But we know that writers have to keep persisting don’t we – lest this all as though I suddenly got 2 pieces published in only 4 months of trying, I should mention that that the other piece, published on the online literary journal (if you don’t mind!), had been sent off in various forms and been rejected, probably about 10 times over the past 8 years.

Obviously, 10 attempts to submit a piece of writing in 8 years is nothing, and a serious writer would have submitted it 84 times in that time, but I’m prone to giving up, and finding reasons not to write, so in the past I have had short bursts where I tried to seriously devote time to writing pieces I could submit for publication, and then I’ve given up again for long bursts due to full time work or due to devoting that time to writing a blog instead. While I wrote this blog, from 2010 until the middle of this year, I don’t think I sent a single piece of writing off anywhere else.

So while I’m trying hard to have a go at writing for something other than my own blog, this blog will probably be only sparsely updated. I will try to update with some writing related news sometimes. Or perhaps I will magically reach a point where I am earning squillions from writing and can afford to spend 24/7 on writing blog posts amongst all the other things. I like to keep my goals realistic though, and I have to tell you, I don’t see that happening in the December – February Plan.

I will make an attempt to catch up with your blogs. I have not been on the WordPress site for weeks now so I don’t know what you are all up to. I might occasionally post a link to one of the pieces I’ve had published. I say might, because this presents trickiness for me that I haven’t worked out yet – because I’ve always written this blog anonymously, and a published piece will have my name on it. Strange as it may seem, it’s not the readers I don’t know (which is most followers of this blog) that I’m concerned about, it’s the ones I do know, because I’m very self-conscious, so if people I know will be reading, that’s likely to affect what I write about.

This must be a hurdle for all writers, that I have yet to feel comfortable about.

Anyway, in the meantime, stay tuned. And keep writing.

 

 

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The amazing benefits to be gained from having a plan! (*amazing benefits may be relative)

Warning: following is a post about a would-be writer’s attempts at writing and getting an article published. For more interesting reading, that doesn’t travel ground you’ve probably encountered before, you may prefer to read that letter from the Tax Department that you have not yet opened. 

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When there is a longer gap than usual on this blog, it often means I’ve had a burst of motivation about writing, and have therefore spent my time trying to focus on writing something for an outlet other than my own personal blog.

As it turns out, I don’t have enough spare time to manage to write two things within one week. Or rather, more accurately, what is lacking is not spare time, which I’m great at wasting, but determination, organisational skills, focus, and decisiveness. Indecisiveness is just as debilitating for a would-be writer as it is for an air traffic controller, although with less disastrous consequences. In my case, I waver indecisively, uncertain whether to write about subject x, or y, or z, or whether in fact I should stop writing and do some research – and if so, whether I should read about subject a, b, or c).

Thus, last week, in the time slot where I usually sit and write a post for this blog, instead I tried to attack my lack of organisation. I wrote out a plan that I thought was realistic, of what I aimed to try and achieve, writing-wise, in the next 3 months, and then, what the first steps would be towards achieving each of those goals.

(As a side note, it was an empowering exercise because I felt like I’d achieved something by creating a plan and defining some clear steps to take. Setting out what writing projects I should focus on also assists with overcoming my indecisiveness about what to focus on doing next, so by planning, I hope to kill two birds with one stone.)

It was important to try and keep this 3 month plan achievable so it’s modest: 3 projects. The first is to get published, a piece I’ve already written. The second is to write a creative non-fiction piece for a local literary journal, based on the theme they have set for their next issue. There was also a project number 3; but honestly, in the time it’s taken me to get from the start of this paragraph to this point, I’ve changed my mind and decided that it may not be realistic to also achieve that goal in the same timeframe. I am now feeling less confident, so I’m not going to make that one public. Maybe it will slip onto the next 3 month plan. I’ll stick to two goals this first time, because if I manage those two, I’ll be very happy.

Anyway, the day I wrote these goals, the adrenalin had kicked in. After writing up the plan, I moved swiftly onto phase two, which was the first steps required for project numbers 1 and 2. Yes, I started on both in the same day! For project #2, this required brainstorming ideas, and from those ideas, trying to come up with a reading list that I could start on, by way of research. This in itself was exciting, because it is a totally new approach for me. The most “research” I ever do for a piece of creative writing (i.e., the writing done on this blog) is to Google a few things to make sure I get dates or facts right, as I write about them. I hope that this new approach – starting with research before I have fully shaped an idea of what I’m going to write about – might shake things up a bit. At the very least, I hope that taking this project seriously and working at it, will result in a good piece writing even if I don’t achieve the goal of submitting it to the journal in question.

The task for project #1 was to approach a publication about publishing a piece of writing that I have ready to go. What is that piece of writing?, you may well ask. I see you are still assidiously avoiding that letter from the Tax Department.

Well, as it happens, there’s a letter from the Tax Department sitting unopened on my benchtop too, so I’m happy to tell you about that piece of writing and how it came about.

Every little while, I’m motivated to try and create a piece of writing that requires more than just my imagination and 60 minutes of my time. When this motivation hit last year, I did a short course on writing profiles, on the online training site, Skillshare. I then did some preparation for writing a profile of a friend of mine. I interviewed her and transcribed the interview, which took me about two months, because I let weeks go by in between doing any transcribing. We talked for about two hours, so I had two hours of recording to transcribe. It must have taken me about 20 hours of listening and typing and rewinding and listening again and typing some more! Anyway, once I got it all transcribed and was ready to start filtering and structuring and writing, I promptly lost interest in it and let it stagnate for months.

But the next time I got motivated to take writing seriously, a few months later, I had to come back to the profile project rather than waste all that work. So I started filtering, structuring and writing. That part wasn’t hard actually. I don’t know why I put it off for so long. But again, I took ages to do it. This was partly because it was so long.  I knew it was much longer than I, an almost-never-published writer, could expect to get published anywhere. Surprisingly enough, The Age Good Weekend does not publish unsolicited, 2500 word profiles from people whose publishing credits so far are a few unpaid pieces in arts/education publications and one 800 word paid article in a parenting magazine about 10 years ago. (Let it be noted that I’m also acutely aware that my writing is not up to the standard of a profile piece in the Good Weekend, lest that previous sentence should suggest otherwise.)

Despite knowing all this, I wrote a long piece anyway, because I’m stubborn about doing things my own way. Because I lacked the confidence to do it the other way around, ie, pitch the idea first and then when it was taken up by an editor, sit down and pump out a brilliant piece of writing, my seemingly weird approach was my way of making sure I got all the information I found interesting into the piece, and could then pitch the idea, with the (perhaps misguided) plan to chop it down to fit whatever word length a specific publication required.

But as all you writers out there will be aware, you need to know what you are writing so you can pitch it accordingly. I was aware, even as I wrote, that the piece that was forming was not so much a profile of my friend, as a description some of the interesting aspects of a project she is doing. This is an important distinction to consider when hoping for publication.

The reason that I focussed more on the project is because to interest an editor in a profile piece, you really need either a well-known person as the subject, or a well-published writer as the author. I knew that getting an editor interested in a profile of someone unknown, written by someone with no track record, was going to be a hard sell from the start.

The project my friend is working on, however, has a few “hooks” that could generate interest from media – she’s producing, with a team of artists, a pictorial map of Melbourne. So potential readers are: people who are interested in Melbourne, people who are interested in illustrated maps, or people who are interested more broadly in illustration. There was potential for good photos – of Melbourne, or of illustrated maps. That this angle could have interest for Melbourne-focussed publications is, as they say, is a no-brainer.

So I wrote my article with that in mind, but unfortunately as I slogged along slowly, letting it sit for weeks at a time without going near it, my friend, working hard to promote her project, managed to get some media outlets interested, and they published her media release, or wrote their own short articles on her project. (No resentment from me, since she needed the PR, and by this time I’d taken about 4 months to produce nothing she could use. There had been no understanding between us that she’d wait for my piece to be written – I didn’t have the confidence in my abilities to undertake that kind of commitment! So I’m really happy that her project got all the publicity it has had to date!)

In terms of publication possibilities, this essentially meant those outlets had already covered it and so were no longer options for publication by the time I had a piece of writing that I felt ready to approach editors with.

So when it was ready, I selected some publications who had not yet covered the story, and pitched a short version of my article, focussing on the project. So far I’ve pitched to two of those, with one publication not responding at all, and the other giving me a polite refusal immediately. (they explained that all their articles must be about projects that are funded by their local council).

That was weeks ago now, but since my highly motivated session last week, I followed the steps in my own 3 month plan, and did more research on other publication possibilities. Accordingly, I pitched it again, last week, to a national publication, this time suggesting it as a profile piece. Since then I’ve been eagerly checking my inbox, but have so far only received a polite, standard response, saying they are inundated with emails about submissions, and may take a few weeks to respond.

Since that’s not an outright rejection, I’m choosing to feel positive about this opportunity so far.

So stay tuned. I’m off now, to do more research for my creative non-fiction piece. That is, after I go out and buy groceries, make lunch, and clean the shower and toilet, because like all unpaid hobbies that you do for enjoyment rather than for income, writing has to fit in around life.

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PS, in case you’re wondering, a reason why I kept my discussion here about my friend and her project pretty general is because if I can’t get the piece published anywhere else, you will get to read the whole thing on this blog. So it won’t be entirely wasted!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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