|Start Checking off Your List|
Every month, I send a list of writing contest and market announcements to my newsletter subscribers. It's called "The Scoop." It usually contains more than 30 different places looking for submissions. People seem pretty interested in this list, as it gets way above the average "opens" every month; last month's list received an 83% open rate. (According to aweber, the average open rate is 20-40%, depending on the day that it's sent).
While I'd like to think that I've mastered the art of the e-mail subject line, making my list irresistible, I know the truth. My readers love to discover different places to send their writing, and why not use the somebody else's research to give them some ideas?
Of course there's a few who unsubscribe, and a few of those who were nice enough to tell me why. "I'm overwhelmed," said one. Another: "I have no need for this." So, in the spirit of making the use of the list make sense for you, I've compiled a few tips.
Often, there are short story, poetry or essay calls for submissions that require you to write to a theme. You can use these as writing prompts, just to get writing. This is helpful if you have been working on one project and you are feeling in a rut. Set your timer to 15 minutes and write to one of the themes that you would normally never touch. Essayists, find your inner poet. Fiction writers, find the story in your own life. You may or may not finish or submit these pieces, you can decide that later. For now, just use them as gasoline to get on the road to writing.
Many contests for longer works, such as novels and nonfiction books, are often annual. An award that offers a free week at a writer's retreat? Sounds wonderful, but you don't have anything to offer this year. Does the chance to win a prize mean enough to you to start writing that book that has been floating around in your head for way too long? If you've imagined winning a prize for it, it's time to get it to paper.
There may be a few on the list that your gut and/or muse are immediately drawn to that seem plausible to finish by the deadline. If the word count is short enough, you can set goals for yourself. For example: aim to finish your first draft in 2 days, edit by day 4, get feedback if possible on the 5th day, then do a final edit and submit on day 7. This is just an example, you may be able to work quicker or need more time depending on your situation. The main point here is to make a plan. Choose your challenges each month and schedule the following days and weeks to meet those goals. My market listing started as my own "to-do/wish" list when I first started writing for publication. Problem was, I was too eager to try "everything" so the list got too long, but I couldn't stop researching--strange addiction--so I just use it to help others. Now, I use a combination of google calendar and an actual calendar that hangs above my desk to keep me on track. Do whatever makes sense within your life to meet your writing, editing, and submitting goals. Set alerts for yourself; print out the list and mark it with a highlighter; join a writer's group or get a coach to hold you accountable.
Compare your list of completed writings (you have one of those, right?) to the calls for submissions. You may already have something written. Submit! Especially if there is no fee. What do you have to lose?
Your list of completed writings should include where you have already submitted them. It can sometimes take a long time to hear back if your work was accepted. If you sent a story somewhere that is fine with simultaneous submissions, and you haven't heard back from them, go ahead and send your work out to the new market. If you hadn't already, you may want to drop the original market a line saying that you haven't heard from them (if it is within the time they've stated they would make a decision) and while you are still interested in their publication, you wanted to make them aware that you are submitting to other markets. Please note that not all publications even send rejection notices. Chicken Soup for the Soul receives so many submissions that they do not contact you unless your essay is being considered. Some literary magazines use an online submission form, and when your story is rejected, they send a form email, and update it on the submission form (password protected.
If you have published works and own the rights, you may be able to resell or submit to a contest. Again, compare your list to the market list and click on the link to see if they accept previously published material.
Just because the list is long, don't let it overwhelm you. Choose your challenges, and begin. The list was meant to reduce your excuses not to write and submit, by using it, you could see your first publication, or your 7th reprint. Good luck.
(Not in on "The Scoop"? Sign up for the latest writing contest and market listing.)
I wrote back to the woman who said she had no need for the list, thanking her for her honesty and telling her it was nice to understand why someone would unsubscribe. I also reminded her what link she was looking at when she decided to get the newsletter (in case she thought I had spammed her). She signed back up the next day. Sometimes a little reminder is all it takes. Maybe she had a series of essays she wanted to find homes for, or a self-published novel she'd like to enter into a contest to get some publicity. No matter what it was, every month an email from me will remind her there's many different opportunities waiting, for those willing to go for it.
If you would like some help staying on track, or even finding your track, consider getting your own Writing Coach. Read more about Excuse Editor Personalized Coaching, and feel free to email me if you have any questions (tina (at) excuseeditor (dot) com).