It’s a funny old world – the writer’s life. We freelancers are technically used to the rolling road of pitching and yet I still mess up.
So today I am writing about “Housekeeping” which is so crucial when you are submitting lots of material to different places. I keep a log both online on a neat and efficient spreadsheet and also by hand in a battered old blue notebook. No idea why I do both. I guess I just can’t let go of that familiar blue friend.
Anyway. The point here is that it is always a good idea to have a little rummage through the records and being a New Year I did just that this week and discovered there had been no outcome on a story I submitted to a magazine some six months back. This is quite unusual for me as I am lucky to have a good relationship with my commissioning editors and normally know where I am going with a story- sales-wise - quite quickly. Often within a fortnight. But this was a magazine to which I haven’t contributed for a while….so fair enough. I didn’t expect special treatment.
I decided, somewhat reluctantly, to chase the submission first by email and then by telephone. I hate calling editors, truth be told, as I know how crazy busy they are and this is very much a last resort for me. But I was very fond of this story (inspired by a trip to The Royal Pavilion in Brighton) and wanted to see it in print. So I needed to confirm acceptance/rejection before offering elsewhere.
Result! The lovely commissioning editor was very apologetic about the delay and within half an hour I received an email, confirming a sale, an increased fee and this note “This is the most beautiful story I have read in a while…thanks so much for giving me a nudge as I would hate to have missed this one.”
Yeah, I know. Sounds a bit boastful to share this here but I hope you will understand my motive. The truth is I was feeling a bit sad about that story and questioning my judgement. I had a good gut feeling it should sell and was thinking “why didn’t they like it?” Just a little bit of me didn’t want to chase, I think, as I didn’t want a rejection. So now I am reminding myself to stay confident. That it’s always important to chase stray submissions which may get lost in busy systems. I should have followed up on this story much sooner. My error.
The rule, of course, is to be patient initially – and to remember that response times often depend on your relationship with the magazine. But if you have not had a yes or no within a few months, don’t forget a gentle nudge.
Those submission logs are crucial – so go and check yours right now. Is there a stray submission that needs polite follow up? Take a leaf. It’s always worth it for another cheque in the post!
Just a short post today as I am slightly in shock. Have just typed those two magic words on my new MS and, much to my amazement, have managed this very close to my goal.
I didn’t quite make Stephen King’s suggested target of finishing a first draft in three months (see earlier blogs regarding this wordcount madness) but…very nearly.
Four months. Which for me is extraordinary.
So what can I tell you about this experiment? First – hand on heart, it was tough. Even though I have more than 25 years as a journalist under my belt ( used to writing daily, whatever my mood) I still found it hard to sit down, aiming for 2,000 words day in, day out. That said, I did warm to the discipline as the manuscript began to grow so quickly.
As I have detailed in another blog, I found myself having to switch from pantser to more of a planner to keep up the momentum but I still let the characters lead the way. I tend to write in a rather peculiar style of reportage ( no surprise given my background). The scenes come to me very visually as I walk, cook, work and generally go about my life. I simply watch from the sidelines, listen in cheekily to the dialogue over my shoulder and then write it all up. As if the scenes actually just happened (which to me, it feels they honestly did). Slightly bonkers – fetch the straight jacket. But there it is.
And so now the big question is how heavy and prolonged the editing will be. What can I say?
Most people recommend putting the MS aside for a while to come back to it with fresh eyes. But we journalists are very used to cracking on with the editing.
I have a confession in that I promised my family that I would give the keyboard a break after these intense months of steam pouring from same…
…and then promptly got up early to start editing the first few chapters immediately.
They laughed. But then they often laugh at me...
Memo to all: never live with a writer.
Teresa Driscoll - journalist, author, mother of two and lover of great coffee.