How to Keep Track of Your Ideas, and Why You Should | LET’S GET PUBLISHED

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Like the act of writing itself, getting published is a process. Often a long, unpredictable process that involves more waiting than anything else. You have a lot of ideas, and you just want them to be heard, dangit! How do you know you’re doing it right if no one’s emailing you back? 

Just because you’re stuck waiting doesn’t mean you can’t continue to crank out, and submit, more ideas elsewhere. How—and why? We’ll show you.

Keep a running list of pitches 

There are several reasons you shouldn’t ever just “wing it” when pitching a story idea, whether it’s to a magazine, blog or part of a proposal of sorts for your agent. Some online submission forms don’t automatically send you a copy of what you’ve just submitted, and if someone comes back to you and says they’d like you to develop and send in your story … and you don’t remember your exact pitch … that might be a problem.

Keeping a list of ideas you’ve pitched, where you’ve pitched them and whether they’ve been accepted, rejected or ignored can help you figure out your niche (which topics you tend to gravitate toward writing about), which kinds of pitches fit certain publications (and which don’t) and can even help you get used to the time gap between when you pitch and if/when you generally get a response. Once you pitch one idea to a publication, you can take advantage of that gap and pitch different ideas somewhere else while you’re waiting.

Teach yourself to track your own progress

The more you pitch, the better you get at it. We won’t say it gets easier, because that would be a lie. Over time, you do start to get a better sense of what certain audiences want to read, what they already know, what they want to know and how to construct pitches that will grab editors’ attention.

The same way journaling can give you the chance to look back at your younger, less experienced self, keeping track of your story ideas over time, regardless of whether they’ve been accepted or not, allows you to look back at the kinds of pitches you were submitting last month, last year, even a few years ago, if you’re really dedicated (go you!). 

Never pitch the exact same story twice

What if an idea for one publication or agent gets rejected or ignored, but you want to try and pitch it somewhere else? It’s true that your pitch may have been overlooked because it’s not quite the right fit for that particular publication’s audience or that agent’s requested genres. But the pitch itself might also need some revising. Maybe it’s not specific enough. Maybe it’s almost there—but not quite ready yet.

It’s okay to try an idea out in more than one place, if the first or second don’t work out. But don’t pitch the exact same idea every time. Play around with your angle. Keep your audience in mind. Keep working at it, either until it finds its fit or until you decide it’s time to move on to something different.

If you want to get published, it’s important to remember there’s only so much you can control throughout the process. But if you want it—and we mean really want it—you’ll find a way to make it work. You’ll figure out how to improve your pitching strategies and find not just where your stories fit, but where you fit as a writer, too.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Is Social Media Helping or Hurting Your Progress?

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At this point, it’s basically impossible not to be involved with some type of social media. Social media, after all, doesn’t just include social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Okay, so we’re going to have to get into more detailed explanations here in a second. This isn’t a social media blog, but social media does influence everything we do—including what, when, how, where and why we write.

Don’t believe us? What’s the first thing you do when you wake up? Do you immediately pick up a book? Drag yourself downstairs to make coffee? Search for your running shoes?

A lot of us probably use our phones as alarms now. Which means, even without intending to, the first thing you might do when you wake up is check your phone. First to switch off your alarm, and then … what did you miss on Twitter after you went to sleep?

It’s great to connect with people online, especially if you’re virtually meeting up with other writers. But is your writing thriving, or suffering, because of it?

Social media vs. social networking

Okay, so maybe you’re one of the few who don’t check your Facebook notifications very often, are mostly silent on Twitter and can’t stand Pinterest or Tumblr. But do you receive any enewsletters via email? Visit any websites? Watch videos online?

If you do, you’re still interacting with social media, which is, according to Social Media Today, forms of online communication through which people “share ideas, information, personal messages, and other content.”

Yes. By reading this post, you are using social media. Boom.

In contrast, social networking is all about relationships. We create profiles on social networks in order to connect with other people, whether they’re friends, potential employers or just random people we have things in common with. Facebook and Twitter are social networks, where you might share an update or article (or a blog post you like, wink wink).

We use social media to learn new things and share our ideas. We use social networks to engage and go deeper. Which can be a great thing for aspiring writers. Right?

When does it help? 

Social media and social networking should always be used two ways: to talk and to listen. There’s plenty of strategy involved here, but we’ll get an expert on here to walk you through that (still promising). Browsing through taglines, article titles and just random posts from random people can inspire new ideas you may have never thought of otherwise.

It’s never a bad idea to promote your work and your accomplishments (in moderation), such as keeping your followers updated on your writing progress or announcing a new story that’s just been published somewhere.

You can also use it to connect with other writers and cheer them on when they’re hard at work on the other side of their latest tweet. Discussions with writers always somehow end up taking a turn for the awesome, especially if you’re the one to start one. 

When does it hurt? 

Honestly? When you spend too much time on it, use it incorrectly or use it for the wrong reasons. The first one is a no-brainer: the more time you spend mindlessly scrolling through your feeds, the less time you actually spend writing your own content, whether that be a blog post, chapter in your book or an article for some fancy magazine (go you!).

There are ways to use social media wrong, and using it for the wrong reasons is one of those ways. Yes, you should promote your work and be proud of your accomplishments … to a point. Don’t brag. Don’t make it all about you, all the time. No one wants to follow someone like that. Remember, you have to engage with other people, and approaching someone else only to talk about yourself is the same online as it would be at a dinner party. Awkward.

And for the love of God. #Stop. #Doing. #This. #In. #Every. #Single. #Post. You want to have a good reputation on social media. You don’t have to be an expert. But you need to at least try to act like you know what you’re doing.

How to find balance

It’s normal, probably even healthy, to spend a little time communicating with other people online. In some cases, it’s the only way you can catch up with friends and family who don’t live close. Checking out various forms of social media and hanging out on social networks can be great for generating new ideas, but it can also be distracting, and, if used improperly, damaging.

Always keep your end goal in mind. If your goal is to get published someday, treat your social media interactions the same way you would if you were interacting with an editor or agent. Keep your work and the work of your friends and colleagues at the center of your promotions, not yourself. Brand, but do it wisely. Be confident, but don’t be a snob.

We dare you to share this post on social media today. Share it with a fellow writer. Everyone’s presence online matters, and if you want to build a solid online portfolio to showcase your work, that includes your social networking profiles, too. There’s no way to escape it. Welcome to 2015!

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Solution Saturday: My Blog Isn’t Getting Any Traffic

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You published four posts this week, which have gotten a total of three hits between them. You’ve worked hard lately to try and create content you hope others will want to read, but no one seems to be reading. What do you do?

This dilemma might not have anything to do with your content or your theme or the way you write, or it could be a combination of a few different roadblocks. Here are a few solutions to help your blog get noticed. 

Solution 1: Define a clear “mission” 

If you’re looking to gain a decent following on your blog, you first need to figure out your blog’s identity. Novelty Revisions has gone through many transitions in the past six (almost seven!) years, but in 2015 we finally settled on our mission: to address common struggles aspiring writers face and offer strategies and solutions to help them make a name for themselves in the publishing industry. Since then, our following has doubled (statistically speaking).

A blog filled with random posts about your daily life probably won’t gain a huge following, not because you’re not awesome, but because, unless you’re someone pretty important, people aren’t going to hop on the Internet just to read about you. People search for articles, blogs and websites that will help them solve a problem or connect with a community, generally.

Weave a common thread through your posts, sort of like I do when I blog about running. Know why you’re blogging and make that clear on your front page or in your about section. Even if you do want to write about your life, don’t make it all about you. Teach your readers something similar each time you post. 

Solution 2: Post consistently

While there are a few minor downsides to posting frequently, the benefits are going to, more often than not, outweigh the risks. Posting consistently doesn’t mean you have to post every day, but if you can build an editorial timeline that helps potential readers know when to expect new content from you, they’re much more likely to keep an eye out for it.

If you’re first starting out, posting often gives you more content to work with and build off of, and even if random web searchers happen to stumble upon older posts, at least they’re finding you. Keeping a consistent posting schedule, which is also what we’ve been doing over the past few months, shows potential readers you are reliable, and makes them more likely to want to stick around. 

Solution 3: Promote your posts

Honestly? Your posts aren’t going to be found at random just by posting, even if you post frequently. A lot of bloggers wrongfully assume that just because they’re active, they don’t have to do anything outside of posting. In reality, there are millions of blog posts going up on different platforms as you’re publishing yours. You will get lost in the mix.

Even if you’re not usually active on social media (which you should be, and we’re going to get someone on here pretty soon to talk about that), you need to promote your posts on multiple social networks if you want to be found. If you’re not okay with broadcasting your posts, you’re just going to have to learn to be okay with no one reading them.

Sorry to break it to you like this, but social media isn’t something you can ignore anymore, especially if you want to get your name out there. You don’t have to create separate pages or accounts for your blog right away, or even at all—just promote links on your personal profiles for now and see what happens. 

Remember that these things take time. Novelty Revisions is growing slowly, but it’s still growing, which it hadn’t really been doing for the first five years of its life. You’re not going to rise to the top the minute you start. Be patient. But most importantly, keep writing. Don’t let low page views stop you from enjoying it.

If you have any other tips to organically, strategically boost blog traffic, you’re more than welcome to discuss them in the comments. Let’s help each other out today. What works for you might work for someone else, too. 

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

The Tense You Use In Your Story Is Actually Kind of Important

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It’s not something we tend to think about in too much detail. Either a writer tells a story in the present or the past tense. If you’re a writer, you’ve probably experienced the anguish of working on multiple projects at once, trying to switch between the two tenses and failing miserably every time.

If we do think about it a little deeper, tense becomes less of a random choice and much more of a significant part of whatever story we’re trying to tell. Have you ever noticed? Let’s take a minute to notice.

Past tense sets the narrator and reader up to reflect on obstacles the characters have already overcome

It’s devastating, both as the reader and the writer, to see even fictional people go through tough times. But the only reason characters have to suffer through the majority of every story is the same reason real life isn’t all rainbows and unicorns: there’s always something to learn from overcoming even the worst obstacles.

Knowing a narrator is telling a story after the fact (‘I remember when … I’ll never forget how … to this day I …”) can serve as a constant reminder that the tragedies they’re facing throughout the book don’t last forever. There is a somewhat happy ending. Reflecting on the past means the narrator is far enough away from it all to be able to process it. That’s a good thing!

Present tense sets the narrator and reader up to grow and conquer obstacles together

While stories told in the past tense are all about looking back, present tense narratives (regardless of the POV) are all about growth and change in the moment. Here, the reader doesn’t know what’s going to happen next, but neither does the narrator. There’s no “I’ll never forget” because the future is unknown on both sides. It’s kind of cool, in a nerdish kind of way.

Telling a story this way might actually help a reader connect with a character in a completely different way. In the present, you’re putting your narrator and reader on the same path at the same speed. Unless you have multiple POVs, it’s less likely your reader knows something your narrator doesn’t. It’s like unraveling a series of secrets between two friends. It’s a special bond (er … until the book ends).

Whichever tense you choose, there’s opportunity for both you and your potential readers to make connections with the characters and their fictitious lives in different ways.

As long as your choice makes sense with your overall storyline—if you’re writing in the present, for example, you’ll have to be a bit more sneaky with your foreshadowing [upcoming post alert]—it’s just another fun device to play with when constructing your stories.

See? Writing IS fun. Most of the time. 

Image courtesy of Flickr.

How to Find the Publication that Fits Your Pitch | LET’S GET PUBLISHED

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We all have specific websites, magazines, journals and other publications we read on a regular basis. It’s tempting, when we start thinking about getting more of our work out there, to pick one of our favorite content hubs, seek out their pitching guidelines and formulate a pitch, article or story that fits exactly within that publication’s scope.

As a writer, the best creative strategies are the ones that leave our minds open to seemingly infinite possibilities. Seeking out a specific publication before you have an idea in mind automatically puts you in a box, a cage to hold back your creativity, which is exactly what you don’t want to do when you’re first starting out.

Here are our tips for finding a home for your ideas after you’ve already constructed them, the first installment of our latest series, designed to help your ideas get the attention they deserve. 

Who is most likely to pick up your pitch/article/story? 

We’ll discuss audience identification a little bit later, but for now, pay close attention to who you think you’re writing to. This will differ depending on whether you’re working on a fiction or nonfiction project.

Picture who you imagine clicking on your article or picking up your story if it were to get published someday. Teenagers? College students? Older adults? Readers of a specific literary genre? Knowing who you’re targeting will help you narrow down options when you’re looking for places to submit your pitch.

Stay away from well-known publications … for now

Let’s be honest: The Huffington Post probably isn’t going to respond to your first, second, third, maybe even your eighth pitch. The bigger the publication, the less likely you are to get noticed. It’s not even that your pitches/articles/stories aren’t worth reading … hundreds of others’ submissions are, too.

When you’re searching for places to pitch to, start small. Just because you get published in a journal or magazine or on a website no one’s ever heard of doesn’t mean it doesn’t count! You’re published! You might even be able to continue contributing to that small publication, get more experience, build your portfolio and eventually be able to work your way up to more well-known pubs. 

Work with one pitch at a time 

Whether or not you’ll submit only the pitch or the entire article at the beginning depends on the publication. Some magazines and other online media outlets have you submit a short pitch for approval; some will ask for a short pitch along with the article/story already written.

It’s a good idea to stick with one pitch at a time, and let it make the rounds. As we’ve mentioned before, and as we’ll discuss later on throughout the month, your pitch might have a perfect home. If you’re lucky, it might be able to fit in more than one (so you’ll have to choose). But if it doesn’t—that’s okay. You can either choose to tweak it, wait awhile and send it out again, or put it to the side to use for a different idea in the future.

The most important thing to remember when you start pitching is that patience will pay off. Sometimes publications take weeks to accept pitches, and it takes a little while to get into the rhythm of knowing when it’s time to move on to a different outlet.

The more you pitch, the easier it will get, and the more likely you are to, eventually, see your words on the web, in print or both.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

My Characters Aren’t Getting a Happy Ending

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Everyone deserves to experience a happy ending. It might take a few tries to get there. It might take a pretty long time. It might not even actually last for very long, or forever. But at least for one moment, for one chapter, everyone should get an equal chance to know what it’s like.

Except my characters. They won’t.

Not all of them, anyway.

There are plenty of reasons for this, of course: I’m not some heartless, evil literary dictator (and if I were, would I really tell you about it?). I’m writing a soft SF novel, which means I have to make the plot and elements realistic enough for readers to believe it.

It’s not a near-future story, though. It takes place far enough into the future that technological warfare has long since come and gone. It’s a different world. Love is complicated. It wouldn’t make sense for everyone to end up together, in a relational as well as en emotional sense. One of the story’s motifs is that bad things sometimes have to happen before good things can (a gross simplification, sorry to be so vague). You have to lose before you can gain. You have to hurt before you can thrive.

Then there’s the fact that I’m not quite sure where this book falls in terms of prequels/sequels/etc. I do know it’s the first and I do know there are other continued storylines that have to come after. So one major reason this book (the one I’m working on now) doesn’t end happily is because, well, if I ended it on a happy note, there’d be no incentive for anyone else to read more.

I hate putting my characters through rough circumstances. But how else are they going to learn to overcome obstacles? I’m crying right along with them sometimes, trust me. I wish I could keep Character X alive. I wish I could keep character Y alive. I … okay, so a lot of characters end up dead. It’s necessary. Which, again, makes me sound like a bad friend or a mean parent or something.

There is one character who ends up getting something she’s always wanted, but of course there’s a cost.

There’s another character who overcomes one of his biggest fears and becomes a much better person for it.

But the love triangle isn’t resolved; it’s broken into pieces. A mother has to say goodbye. There’s one estranged friendship you might expect to get resolved, but the opposite happens instead.

My main character, the book’s narrator, needs to learn by the end of the book that emotions aren’t black and white. You’re not just either happy or sad. Everyone experiences emotions at different degrees, and certain emotions affect everyone differently. But to fully be able to understand that, she has to learn what happens when you let your emotions do all the thinking for you. That’s not a happy lesson to learn.

I don’t know about you, but I get bored when stories treat happiness like it’s the easiest emotion to feel. Happiness is the hardest. It’s easy to let yourself crumble when things go wrong, as my MC/our narrator finds out. It’s harder to learn to be happy even when it seems there’s nothing to be happy about.

If I just handed out happy endings, there’d be no reason for anyone to read my stories. I write for other people, to give other people something meaningful to read. They deserve better. They deserve the non-happy endings, so later in the series, when there is one, it will be worth the wait.

If I ever get that far. To the ending, I mean. I’m still not finished. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever be.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and health. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi, Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine.  She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink. Follow Meg on Twitter. 

[DISCUSSION] If No One Else Ever Read What You Wrote, Would You Still Write?

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When first asked this question alongside hundreds of other writers, probably in a forum somewhere or in a Tumblr thread, I was convinced I knew the answer for sure. Of course I would still write: writing is my life.

But as I learned more about how to separate my different writing styles to fit different audiences and genres of writing, I realized quickly that as much as I would love for others to read what I was writing, no one really was. No one really is now, either. Yet I keep writing. I keep waking up every morning telling myself, “You’re going to write today,” and I always do.

I keep writing, even when no one is reading. Does that mean, if it were guaranteed no one would ever read a single word I wrote ever again, that I would keep writing anyway?

Lately, it’s difficult to say for sure. There is a small flame of satisfaction that burns inside every writer when they get a hit on their website or a compliment in a forum. A comment on an article, good or not so good, at least means someone is reading. That’s often better than nothing. After all, don’t we always write for an audience regardless of where our words are going to end up?

It gets tiring after awhile, writing and writing and writing without feedback or any indicator at all that someone’s paying attention. But as exhausting as it does become day after day, I don’t think writing without a foreseeable audience should be enough to make us stop writing if we’re attached enough to our craft.

Can it be proven that just because no one is reading your work, the universe is telling you that your work isn’t good enough to be read?

No, of course not. And maybe there are writers out there who don’t want anyone to read their work, and go out of their way to make sure it doesn’t happen.

I’m not one of those people, though sometimes I wish I were. I journal every day, though, and that’s my one chance to write only for myself, probably about things I would prefer not to share with an audience. I use that as my private outlet.

But I have my public outlets too—this site and other random places I’ve published articles and blog posts, for the sake of developing my skills and showcasing that I can write anywhere, about anything, that I’m not just stuck in one place writing about the same things over and over again.

If I didn’t have those things, if I only had my journal and kept a blog set to private and never tried publishing anywhere else, would that be enough?

Writing is as much a part of me as any of the tissues and organs (and awesome, DFTBA) that make up my existence. Once, at a point in my life I wouldn’t revisit if you paid the rest of my student loans and future tuition, I stopped journaling. And back then, that and the blog I kept that had an average of 2.5 readers at any given point in time, was all I had.

I wonder, sometimes still, if I stopped writing because I was miserable or became miserable because I stopped writing.

I like to think I’ll never stop writing, even if people stop reading. Which is likely: I’m not always very confident that what I’m putting out there is necessarily helpful to my intended audience all the time, and where audiences are concerned, if they’re not benefiting from the material, they stop seeking it out.

You’re still learning, with every piece of writing you develop, even if you keep it to yourself. You don’t need someone else to be there to critique it or comment on it or share it. Those things only help; they’re not necessary. But I don’t think I would be where I am today, working toward a professional writing career, if I had just one day decided to keep everything to myself.

I don’t write to get noticed, I don’t write for the sake of writing something for the fun of it. I do write to help people, communicate messages and (hopefully) start conversations. So I’ll end this rant with a question. And I think you already know what I’m going to ask.

If no one else ever read what you wrote, would you still write?

Would you still play with words?

Would it still be worth it to you?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Or should I say, read your words. Go on. Compose your words of wisdom, as the comment box politely requests. Don’t be shy. I’m not a robot. I really will read what you have to say.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and health. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi, Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine.  She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink. Follow Meg on Twitter. 

Solution Saturday: I’m Afraid of Failing

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You love writing. Even if you’re not the best, you just love sitting down and playing with words. So why all of a sudden, the second you get a new idea for a story unlike anything you’ve ever tried writing before, are you so afraid to sit down and start writing it?

The truth is, you’re afraid of failing. Afraid that you’ll start and won’t finish, that you’ll finish and it won’t be publishable, that it will get published but everyone will hate it.

Being afraid to fail is a roadblock that spans across many different disciplines. It’s normal to hesitate for fear of falling short of your own expectations. But don’t let fear stop you from doing what you love. Here are three ways you might be able to overcome your latest creative barrier. 

Solution 1: Ask yourself why the idea is important to you 

We’re constantly bombarded with ideas. The ones that really stick out to us, the ones we just can’t seem to get out of our heads, mean something special to us. And it’s not just a coincidence, either. If you can’t get it out of your head, it’s probably because there’s something significant about it that appeals to you enough to want to expand upon it.

If you have an idea but are afraid it won’t go anywhere, take a few moments to work out why it matters to you personally. Do you have a specific message you really want to get across to a group of people? Do you have a story to tell that reflects personal experiences you really want to share? If it’s important to you for a good reason, it’s worth taking further, even if it does come to a dead end.

Solution 2: Choose someone you know to be your “motivation”

If you lack confidence in your ability to start, work on, finish, revise and/or publish your work, you might just be unintentionally overwhelming yourself thinking about the hundreds of thousands of people who may or may never read your story. If you can’t write for a thousand, for a hundred, for ten—just write for one.

You could even work this method into your dedication. “I’m writing this for so-and-so.” Choose someone close to you, someone you know will love and appreciate your hard work and effort even if you don’t ever actually finish. But maybe focusing on that one person, if you can’t stop yourself from thinking of your audience outside of writing the actual story, will make it easier for you to push forward even when you’re worried about never making it as far as you hope to someday. 

Solution 3: Accept that the only way to fail at writing a story is to never start writing it 

There isn’t a story out there that can really be considered a failure. If it has a beginning, middle and end, some characters, a plot and a problem that eventually gets resolved, it’s still a story. Some stories are better than others, but that doesn’t mean one story is a failure in comparison to one that’s more successful.

If you think of it that way, the only way to really fail at writing something is to never even give it a chance. We learn something new from each story, poem, article, book, etc., that we write. You’re never going to acquire the experience and skills you might need to avoid failure if you never allow yourself to learn from your shortcomings and mistakes.

It’s also important to remember that just because you have an idea doesn’t mean you’re required to tell people about it. If you are anxious to start working on a project but aren’t ready to talk about it until you’re more confident, you don’t have to. Sharing ideas can be beneficial, but don’t let that alone kill your creative productivity if you don’t want to. It’s okay to keep it to yourself for a while.

Failure is a part of the life of a writer the same way it’s a part of life in general. The important thing is that you’re able to convince yourself to go for it—and know that if you do take a tumble, you will get back up again, and your love for writing will not abandon you no matter how many times you think it has.

Just do it. Be brave. Sure, you might fail. But there’s also a chance you might succeed, too.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Solution Saturday: No One Seems Interested in My Pitches

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Pitching. Either you love it or you hate it. Regardless of your writing niche, we all have to do it. It can get extremely frustrating, and discouraging, when your ideas just don’t seem to be getting through to anyone, right?

It’s not necessarily the quality of your idea that’s leaving you constantly overlooked. There are a lot of components that go into pitching. We feel a new upcoming series coming on …

But first, we still do want to help you get noticed, or at least increase the likelihood of someone paying more attention to your pitches. 

Solution 1: Find the publication that fits the pitch, not the other way around

It’s probably tempting, when you first start pitching ideas for stories and articles, to seek out your desired publication first. That’s definitely not the best way to go about it. Seeking out a magazine you want to write for, then coming up with a pitch you’re sure they’ll like, you’re putting yourself into a box and sealing the lid. You’re settling for what one publication wants, without giving yourself room to create freely, with the possibility of multiple publications interested in that very topic.

Come up with an idea, maybe even a full story or article, first. Focus on what you want to write about, whatever issue or theme you think is important. Do your absolute best work. Once you have an idea and/or a well-polished draft, then you can do some research and figure out where your work might fit the best. 

Solution 2: Know exactly whom you’re writing to 

Not just the editor that will be reading your pitch: this is important, but what we’re referring to here is your pitch and/or story’s audience. This actually helps with our first solution, too. Know not only the message you want to get across, but who you’re trying to reach. Who do you picture clicking on the link to your story, when it finally gets its own spot on the web?

Knowing your audience makes researching the ideal publication even easier. If you’re writing an article meant for college students, you can narrow your search to college-centered blogs and magazines right away once your pitch is ready to be shared.

Solution 3: If one pitch isn’t working, move on

Sometimes, a pitch needs a lot of refining. Unfortunately, the way the virtual submission process works, your pitch will either get accepted or it won’t. Usually you won’t hear back at all if it’s rejected: you won’t get feedback on how to improve it, leaving that part of the process up to you.

Eventually, if you’ve tried submitting the same pitch to a few different relevant publications, with no results, that might mean your pitch needs some work. Sometimes the focus just needs to be narrowed a bit, in some cases. It’s up to you whether you want to try to rework it or just let it fall to the bottom of the pile. But don’t dwell on it; if one thing isn’t working, don’t waste valuable time fussing over it. Just leave it be and move onto another idea.

It’s not you, and it’s definitely nothing personal. Editors know their publications, especially those in charge of screening pitches and evaluating submissions. They can only accept so many, and they can only accept stories that fit with exactly what they’re looking for. Don’t give up. Honestly, if you spend enough time pitching good ideas, eventually, someone will take notice.

We’re going to write more about this. We mean it. Stay tuned.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Even Your Unpublishable Stories Are Still Important

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With every worthwhile masterpiece comes a harsh reality: just because you have written the best story yet, doesn’t mean it’s right for the publishing industry.

Pitching a story is the same across all channels, whether you’ve written a book, an article or a totally kick-butt essay. It has to fit into a niche; it has to be written to/for a specific audience. It has to, to some extent, align with current trends, themes and messages.

All that, and it still has to be well-written, with strong, diverse characters, an intriguing plot and usually a few twists nobody, not even your agent, saw coming.

Creativity and business do go hand-in-hand. While we need to focus on our own creative process to write something at all, it’s not over when we make that last revision. If you write just to write, that’s one thing. But if you write so others can enjoy your work, well, you have a long way to go yet.

And even if you put months, even years of your life into revising that story you love so much, sometimes it doesn’t always fit into a publishable category. Sometimes it’s unique, but not unique enough. Well-written, but not as original as you may have thought. Who knows: it might even be too ahead of its time (not such a bad thing really, if you think about it).

Once you write that story, you have to make a shift: from creator to seller. You have to figure out how to persuade an agent to see in your story what you’ve seen in it all along. Maybe it’s a matter of finding the right agent for that particular story, and yes, that will take a lot of research and a lot of time. It might pay off. Honestly, though, it might not.

This is why blogs exist. This is why self-publishing exists. If you think your story is worth printing, no one can stop you. But if you can’t sell it, and no one seems interested, and you’re starting to get discouraged, maybe you don’t want to self-publish. Maybe you just want to forget you wrote it at all, and move on.

Moving on is a must. Even if you’re still looking for an agent to give your queries a deeper look, that doesn’t mean you should stop working on other projects. It may turn out that your Best Story Ever just isn’t mean to go on to become the next bestseller. Does that mean the story’s bad? Of course not. Does it mean you’re a bad writer? Absolutely not the case.

It means you just haven’t found the idea + market combination that’s going to turn into a successful product. Every story you write matters, regardless of whether or not anybody else wants to take it to the next level. And here’s why.

Every story you write will teach you something new—about yourself, about your writing style, about your creative process: everything. That’s why it’s so heartbreaking when aspiring writers put their writing on hold when they can’t get published. Writing is your art! Your passion! It does not have to be your career. Claiming writing as your hobby does not make you any less of a writer. Getting published is hard. Especially in the very beginning, when you’ve never had to try selling your idea to someone else before.

Let your discouragement fuel your creativity. That might sound a little bonkers, but think about it: how many people get discouraged and give up? Probably a lot. But you don’t have to be one of them. Turn your disappointment into framework for a new story. Experiment with all the different emotions you’re feeling. Write something you’ve never written before. What do you have to lose?

If you stopped writing now, what are you gaining?

Some writers never get published. Some have to wait years. It’s a matter of how far you’re willing to go to learn how to write something you’re passionate about that will get a publisher’s attention. Practice does not make perfect. But maybe, eventually, practice can make publishable.

In the meantime, don’t you dare toss out that story you’ve worked so hard on all this time. Reflect on how much it has taught you. Keep it forever. Whether you want to believe it or not, it is now a part of your history. There is no going back.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.