I’ve been a little absent from blogging land of late. Why? I have been very focussed on writing these past two months and following a self-imposed schedule which has kept me extremely busy (and a little stressed). You see, I haven’t just been working on my WIP, I’ve also been juggling writing competitions, mentorship applications and structural edits (on a previous manuscript).
Earlier in the year I researched down ALL the opportunities I wanted to apply for and marked them down on a calendar. I’ve been applying for 2-3 opportunities each month. It means that I’ve been head-hopping quite a bit too from character to character and story to story. It can be confusing at times!
Why am I taking on so much all at once? I realised I had to be doing more than what I have been. Perhaps that sounds crazy, coming from a writer with six, almost seven complete manuscripts filed away on my computer. Finishing manuscripts and sending them off and hoping I’ll find a publisher or agent wasn’t getting me anywhere.
Writing goals for 2017
- Short story competitions
- Writing mentorships
- Unpublished manuscript awards
- Pitching opportunities
There were several conferences, residencies and writing retreats I’d also love to attend this year but with a young daughter, I just can’t (or don’t want to) commit to spending a few nights, or weeks away from my family.
What have I achieved so far? Well, I’ve written several short stories and I’m very close to completing my current WIP. I received some incredibly in-depth and constructive feedback from my entry to the Valerie Parv Award run by the Romance Writers of Australia (RWA) which has helped me plan a (another) major structural edit for a previous manuscript.
I haven’t won anything yet, but that’s not really the point.
How to keep track of writing opportunities
1. Research. Research. Research.
I am signed up to dozens of writing-related email newsletters as well as being a member of the RWA and NSW Writers Centre which means I am exposed to many, many opportunities.
2. Get a calendar. Mark down all the writing opportunities that would benefit you and mark them all down on a calendar. Include the closing dates, cost and what is required. I don’t enter every competition I have mark on my calendar, but every month I prioritise one or two that I can accomplish within a reasonable timeframe. Here’s an example of my plan for August. These are the goals I have marked down outside of working on my WIP.
3. Keep a journal, notepad or anything that helps you keep track of tasks on a daily or weekly basis. This helps me keep track of my writing goals overall and then I can break it down so I know what I want to achieve each week. For example, if I want to enter a mentorship opportunity, then I will print out and read over the selected chapters, then make edits, I may send off to a critique partner, then write/ edit a synopsis and a cover letter and complete the application form. All of these elements take time.
4. Have a critique partner who is on the same page as you. I’m a member of my local writers group which has allowed me to connect with another writer who writes as voraciously as me and is always on the lookout for new opportunities. We will often exchange short stories on a weekly basis (or chapters from a manuscript) before we send them off and it’s amazing how many little inaccuracies or grammatical errors show up when another set of eyes look over your work.
5. Keep on writing. Don’t get too caught up in applying for competitions if it stops you from moving forward with your writing. Reworking the same old short story won’t get you anywhere. Write a new one! Try something different. Write in a new genre. Keep it fresh and you will remain motivated and committed to your goals.
One of the pitfalls of entering so many competitions is the time commitment and it can also take you away from working on your WIP. However, it can help you expand your writing skills, access feedback and get you one step closer to getting your foot in the door of the publishing industry.
For me, it has been tricky and stressful at times, but I do think it will be worth it in the long run. And if it doesn’t work out for me this year then I’ll come up with a new strategy for 2018.