Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Write Stuff

A friend I haven't seen in a while asked me today how my writing was going.

And it made me stop and think.

On the one hand, I blog regularly... well weekly anyway.  I have some faithful followers who read my blog and tolerate my prattle on Facebook. My post The Brutal Truth About the Third Child, still garners hundreds of hits each day, after it went viral. I even found it being repinned on Pinterest the other day. Awesome, no?

I also write for Weekend Notes.  I am now ranked Number 2 (in Perth) and am finally making enough money to justify the time I spend eating my way around Perth.  I am mentoring a number of cadets as part of the writing program at WN, and even if I am not changing anyone's life, I can at least say I am part of a writing community.

Recently I got to see the proof of my first soon-to-be-published article.  In an actual magazine. Made out of paper! It is true that the subject matter of the article may not be my true love - not to suggest to dentists everywhere that surgery design doesn't float someones boat - but my real desire is to write about women's health, pregnancy, children, loss, fear, pride and the wealth of emotions and experiences that come with being a parent.

So while these little successes push me forward I can feel the yawning hole of 'not quites' and 'no thanks' pulling me back.

Even though I am technically having a 'year off' due to the arrival of Baldy Baby (maternity leave from doing nothing?) this year I submitted two articles to different magazines, and while the initial response seemed positive, their enthusiasm has dimmed, and I have to accept the fact that they probably don't want my stories. 

One article, very close to my heart, I worked on over a matter of months. It was the culmination of a Feature Writing course at uni. It contained the stories and words of some incredible people suffering the worst type of loss, and when I was told by the editor to cut the story down, first by a few hundred words, then by a thousand, I was afraid that the essence of the story would be lost.  I was told that there were 'too many quotes'. How do you edit the words of parents who have lost a child without robbing them of their chance to tell their story?

Yet, people don't become editors of national magazines without knowing how a story should be written, so I have to not only accept her criticism, but learn from it too.

I have so much to learn, yet it would seem that I cannot learn these things at uni, because that very same article earned me a Distinction and the misguided notion that it would be acceptable for publication. I felt a bit silly when the editor told me via email that the story 'read a bit like a university essay'... umm yes, that's because it was.

I read the blogs of amazing writers like Kerri Sackville and Allison Tait. I pour over them looking for answers, trying to figure out the path from blogger to writer, from amateur to professional, from fun to career.

So how do you get started?  Am I on the right path?  Do you need just one big break, or is it a series of small breaks.


  1. Given that I gave up writing for magazines to blog and teach others about it instead, I am probably not a good model for giving advice. But I will anyway. In my case it was a series of small breaks. Little online mags, not very widely published real mags, and then some bigger ones. (And then I decided getting regular pay to write short blog posts was a lot easier than continually pitching to magazines and getting lots of maybes).

    One thing - do you pitch to overseas (meaning really US-based) mags and websites too? The Australian market is obviously excruciatingly small. Some of my successes came because I'd worked with editors at small sites and then they moved on to bigger sites and still knew who I was.

    Other than that, just keep at it. It's a terrible job to want to do but once you want to do it, it's hard to give up! You can do it xxx

    1. Thanks Amanda

      you are a total inspiration to me, and I'd like to think one day I will be as successful as you - an actual career writer! To do what you love and be good at it, that is terribly rare these days.

      Thanks for the goood advice, I should definitely look abroad. I should also get rid of my romantic and outdated notion that I must be published on PAPER to be considered a real writer...

  2. Just keep going! You write so well, and so engagingly, that you will make it. Over the years, and countries, I've written for 40++ publications, some quite regularly - but it never gets any easier. My tip is to have lots of ideas going, and keep on sending out proposals (never the whole story), and don't be discouraged. Go to the library, scour every magazine and publication, find out if they accept freelance contributions, write a perfect pitch, sent it exclusively and before you get an answer write another pitch for another magazine or publication (I offer a free ebook over at http://www.zigazag.com with tips about what I've found works to get gigs freelancing for magazines - which can also help build up a blog too). Good luck, you'll get there.

  3. Right, I think I need your email address, perhaps I should ask Danika for it, but as the editor of a national magazine I like your idea that we know what we're doing. Ho ho ho.
    I think I can offer some advice here but I'm flat out putting a magazine to bed on deadline and ignoring the many freelancers who've offered me stories today. But I will write back.


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