Saturday, 1 May 2010

Think About It

I've sent a couple of short stories out there and so now the frustrating wait for a verdict from the magazine editors starts. I'm sure we've all been there/are there. You send your work off in a flurry of excitement and expectation which soon transforms into agonising anxiety and frustration as you chew your finger nails down to nothing while waiting for that all important letter/e-mail/phone call that you know deep down isn't going to come for a while yet, if ever!

So while I've been waiting, I've been e-mail interviewed by another writer who is doing an article  - that was fun and I hope the article finds a home. I've also managed to finish transcribing the last interview I did and will be planning a couple of articles from that. I've made a list of the magazines I think might be interested in an article (you need to think wide and obscure for this - don't just go for the old favourites.) This is where I find I really need to sit down, highlighting pen clutched in my hand and notes from the interview spread out in front of me on the floor and read through it, highlighting quotes and bits I particularly like. It helps me to have three blank sheets of paper too. These pieces of paper represent the three articles I'll be writing on the same subject aimed at three different magazines. I write the name of the publication I'm aiming for on the top of each sheet and then put any relevant quotes of bits of info I find on each sheet  - ensuring that no two quotes/information bits are the same in any of the articles  -  unless I write the information in a different way for each article.

I always try and aim for three articles out of one interview  - maybe more if I can stretch it! Once I have been through my notes and transfered the bits I want to use on each of the pieces of paper I have a cup of tea or two and then I start to form a plan for each article. I don't go overboard or in to too much detail here  -  it's just a short beginning-middle-end format where I note down what I want to say in the article and which order I want to say it in. I think about it at this stage so I can ensure I don't miss anything important and I can contact the interviewee if I'm unsure of anything rather than waiting until it's almost due for submission and having a mad panic about it! I might note down a few sentences that pop into my head that I'd like to put in the article so I jot them down before I forget.

Then I put it all away for a couple of days while I get on with something else. This gives me more time to think about it and I'm sure a lot is going on at a sub-conscious level in my brain too. Then I get it all out again and start looking at one of the plans. This is where I go either one of two ways depending on how much time I have and what mood I'm in. I either write the first draft of the article in longhand on paper, or I type it straight on to the computer. I have no preference as to which one I use really, but the typing option cuts down on time in the long run. It's already there on screen ready to edit rather than me having to type the whole thing from the hand written one.

I tend to do about three edits (I think three must be my magic number!) These edits take place over a week or two and I always put the 'finished' article away for at least two days to a week before getting it out for a final read through before I send it off. You'll be amazed what errors you can miss - even at that late stage, so it's important to do that final read through.

I'm hoping to get the first draft of one of the articles from this interview done by the end of the weekend. I have pitched the idea to two magazines but they said no thank you, so I'll go to the next magazines on my list and pitch to them until I run out of magazines. I will also use one of the articles for the journalism course I'm doing which I must get a crack on with as I have been neglecting it.

Whatever you're doing this bank holiday I hope your article writing is going well and the ideas are flowing. Keep at it!



  1. Keeping everything crossed for good news soon.


  2. Hi Julie,

    I've been dipping into your blog posts for some months now but, shame on me, this is the first time I've contributed.

    I love reading your planning process when putting a feature together. It's really interesting that you aim to get three or more articles from each interview. You're so organised, and a real inspiration. Keep up the good work Julie.

    Heaps of luck in placing the latest features and I'm keeping my fingers crossed for those short stories too, although if my experience is anything to go by you might need to be patient for a while yet.

    I'e just sent letters to WW and TAB inquiring (very politely) about stories I subbed to them more than SIX MONTHS ago (I know!) I suspect some of the fiction eds must still be in hibernation.

  3. Hi, Rena and welcome!

    I do try and be organised but it doesn't always go to plan - it depends what mood I'm in! I seem to have a flurry of writing activity and then nothing happens for a while.

    We had a writer in at our writing group workshop as part of our local literary festival who was published in magazines and novels and it was his suggestion about getting at least three articles out of one idea. So I thought if it works for him I'll give it a go!

    It's the short stories that drive me mad the most, Rena! I'm sure you know what I mean! I've been trying so long now but I refuse to give up. All we can do is keep reading and writing them and improving them and sending them out there - we will get there someday!

    Six months is a long time to wait - I hope you find out what happened to your stories soon. I never send letters and I just assume, if I've heard nothing after 6 months, that it's a no go-er and I try and edit it again and send it elsewhere - it is frustrating though!

    Good luck

    Julie xx

  4. Thanks, Suzanne!

    Got everything crossed for you too!
    Julie xx

  5. Thanks for your comments Julie.

    I think you're right about subbing short fiction elsewhere if original mag has not responded after six months plus. I'll probably do this in future.

    I just have this fear of having a story being accepted by the first ed after I've subbed it to another. (You know the old 'lost item turning up as soon as you buy a replacement syndrome')

    Totally different subject now - I just wondered, if you pitched feature ideas to an editor before or after interviewing your subject?

    If you don't interview first, there is always the possibility of an interviewee refusing after you have "sold" the idea to the magazine.

    On the other hand, if you do the interview first, and then fail to get an editor interested in the piece, you face the risk of a possibly very disappointed interviewee.

    Any thoughts Julie?

  6. Hi, Rena

    I've done it both ways! I sometimes pitch the idea first to the editor but then you run the risk of the person you want to interview saying no! I've also interviewed people first and then pitched. Often it's not until you've interviewed someone that you think of an angle for a good article. I always say to them that I might not be able to get an article published but I'll try my best. I always show them examples of work I've had published too so they know I am capable of it. If the then don't want to be interviewed because I can't guarentee to get them in a published article then I move on to someone who will!!

    I've never had a problem really, though. Most people seem keen to be interviewed. I always keep them updated on my progress too - very important that.

    If you did get an article or short story accepted by two editors (unlikely - but might happen) then I would go with the editor who pays more or with the magazine you like the best. If the first editor has taken a long time to reply and someone else has accepted it in the meantime I would just explain to that first editor that due to the long time they've taken to decide you thought they weren't interested and that someone else has taken it - I think this would be okay if you've been waiting six months or more. Writers have a business to run just as much as editors and magazines.

    Good luck!

    Julie xx