The Writing Life: 4 Things I Learned in 2016

Thursday, December 22, 2016
Research means work, work, play.
I assume that there are a certain number of things that you and I have in common. After all, given the fact that we’re having this discussion at the Muffin, there’s a really good chance that we are both interested in making our living as writers. Because of this, I’m hoping that some of what I learned will benefit you as well. 

Getting 50 rejections in one year isn’t as easy as it sounds.  One of the goals I set for 2016 was to earn 50 rejections.  I was counting agent queries, editor queries, book markets and magazines, so I thought this would be do-able. But finding agents who represent picture book authors who don’t illustrate is tough. Because of this, I would find a suitable agent and submit to that one person so I didn’t send out nearly as much as I had planned. If I’m going to earn 50 rejections next year, I’m going to have to send out a lot more and that includes contacting 5 or 6 agents a month.

When you write for an overseas publisher, find their magic number. Right before Thanksgiving, I got a rewrite request from efuture, a South Korean ESL publisher. Before I submitted the manuscript the first time, I ran it by my critique buddies. One writer reminded me that I couldn’t build my story around the “power of three” unless I was sure that three was meaningful in Korean culture. What if they grouped things in four or six for maximum impact?  Lucky for me, the “magic” number is still three but I’m glad she reminded me to check.

I thought of myself as a pantser but I am really a plotter. Because I don’t tend to outline my nonfiction, I thought of myself as a pantser, someone who writes without an outline.  But most of my nonfiction has a natural order – the steps in a how-to, the order in which historic events happened, etc.  When I tried NaNoWriMo without a solid outline, I discovered that I have to know where I am, where I’m going and the major landmarks in between.  I am not a pantser.

Not every writer is flexible enough to write for a packager. The piece that really brought this home is the book I turned in yesterday, E-Sports! Game On which is about professional gamers.  Yes, people who make money playing computer games. My son and his teen friends all “get” it. I didn’t understand how rare my love of gaming is in my “age bracket” until I noticed how my peers reacted when I told them what I was writing.  They looked confused. Some actually got “triggered” (the word my son uses). While I wonder how many writers turned the assignment down, I’m glad I have diverse interests.

Those are the lessons that I’m taking with me into 2017. Keep learning and looking into new things (I hear Battlefield has a new game coming out).  Maybe you could outline or pants a new type of writing.  But most of all, keep submitting your work.  There are editors and readers out there and it is up to us to help each other find them.


To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.
Sue is also the instructor for Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults which starts again 2/6/2017.


Margo Dill said...

I really like this reflection and I think I may do a comparable post on my blog. I will let you know and link to this of course

Sioux Roslawski said...

Sue--I am curious. Who did you ask to find out what the "magic number" is in Korea?

Great post, as usual. I'm glad you're willing to share what you've learned.

Angela Mackintosh said...

These are great insights, Sue. I may have to read your book, since I'm like you and love gaming despite my age bracket. ;)

I'm curious about your many did you end up getting? It seems like 50 would be pretty easy if you're counting magazines as well, but perhaps you received a lot more acceptances this year?

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Okay, I kid you not. This attempt #3 to respond to your comments.

Since I love to do research I read up on numbers in Korean culture -- lucky numbers, unlucky numbers,etc. Then I read up on story telling and this is where I found what I needed.

I think I had something like 10. It is hard to total because so many people just don't respond if they don't want it. I need to get more systematic. Four or five agents/ month plus magazines will crank up that total.

I also have several things still out. Then there were the acceptances and that pesky rewrite request. None of these helped with my total.

This year I need to get with it from the start! If I send out more, even if I don't succeed in collecting rejections, I sure won't object to more credits!


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