5 Questions to Ask Yourself when Choosing What to Write

Sunday, October 14, 2018

A call had gone out for queries for Writer’s Market. At one time, writing how-tos and interviews for other writers were my bread-and-butter. I wrote for Children’s Writer newsletter and their annuals, Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market, and Writer’s Market. But the deadline is tomorrow and I hadn’t had time to rough one query let alone the three or four pieces I normally pitch. Me being me, I whined about this to my husband.

“Have you talked to the editor?”


“Is he expecting a pitch?”


“You had a deadline Friday. You have a deadline Wednesday. You can let this slide.”

What? Wait? I can do that? Sometimes I need the gentle reminder. We writers have only so many hours in the day. We only have so much energy to give over to our writing. Both of these things mean that we have to pick and choose. Here are five questions to ask yourself as you try to decide which opportunities to pursue.

1. Do you have a deadline it will interfere with? I could have written the query but a requested rewrite was due Friday. A first chapter and outline on another book are due Wednesday. I might have been able to squeeze in a query but it would have been taking time and energy from these projects.

2. What are my short term goals? The vast majority of my writing income comes from a single packager. The good news is that I’m making enough from this one company. The bad news is that all of my eggs are in one publishing basket. I want to break into some new markets.

3. What are my long term goals? I love the nonfiction books that I write for educational publishers. But they are scattered between various series. I’d like to write my own nonfiction series. I’d also like to write trade nonfiction. Writer’s Market isn’t going to move that goal forward.

4. Do you have a ready-made idea? Sometimes I’ll pursue a project if, when I see the call, I have the perfect idea already in mind. If I had an idea that was ready made for Writer’s Market that would be one thing, but I don’t.

5. Why do you want to pursue this? Dream job. Dream publisher. I’ve got a great idea. I need the work. I don’t know why but I feel driven. All of these would be viable answers. You can probably think of a few more. The problem was, I couldn’t have given any of these answers.

The answers to these questions can help you create priorities and identify steps to take. By letting a query slide, I’ll have a little more wiggle room on my second deadline. With that time, I can work up a nonfiction series proposal for another publisher. A new market. Something much more in line with my goals.


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. The next session begins November 12th, 2018.


Renee Roberson said...


This is so funny because I saw that same call for submissions and paused for a minute, trying to decide if I had anything to query them with. I sort of went through similar steps that you did when deciding to move on down the line. I love WD, but my long-term goal is finding an agent for my fiction, so I'm trying to focus on that. My short-term goals are entering a few short story contests to help make me look more attractive to an agent. With a full-time job to factor in, I don't really have time for any non-fiction craft queries, as much as I'd love to. These are great guidelines for helping us all prioritize our writing goals so we don't spend too much time spinning our wheels on something that won't pan out!

Margo Dill said...

I do the same thing all the time. I think writers love to bite off more than we can chew. We also tend to be overachievers and hard on ourselves! Thanks for the tips.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Sue--It's nice that your husband could help you put things into perspective so you could reset your priorities or at least remind yourself of what your priorities are.

Margo is right. Writers take huge bites and then find themselves on the verge of choking.

You've chewed carefully, you've swallowed and now you're digesting. Good luck with your future deadlines.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Too funny that we were looking at the same call. Finding an agent definitely needs to be a priority for me too.

We do over-commit, don't we?

Thank you!


Angela Mackintosh said...

Sue, these are fantastic questions. If I have a bunch of projects to choose from I always ask myself: What will take the least amount of time and give me (or my business) the biggest return in the long run? Whatever the answer is, I go with that. :)

Have you tried pitching a series to your educational publisher? It might be an easy sell since you've already been writing for them.

Thanks for this post! It's inspiring me to get my own writing goals in order. :)

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