Facing the Mundane
By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin
Within the process of the Writing Life, there is a great deal of routine and mundane tasks. How do you face these tasks? Do you ignore them or move ahead and do them?
If I'm honest I love to tell stories and write words into my computer. Then I send those stolries to editors who see it is a fit for their publication, so they publish the material published in magazines or books or online or another format. It sounds simple but is much more complex.
While you may be writing the stories for yourself, each writer has to understand they are writing for the reader and have to have them clearly in their focus to capture the editor's attention. Many magazines require you write a one page pitch letter called a query letter. You have to learn how to use words which catch attention. There are thousands of these publications and you have to learn which ones will be a fit for whatever you are pitching and reach that editor with your pitch. Often you have to pitch numerous times before you find the right fit and this process can be repetitive and boring—yet it is a necessary part of the business. If you don't pitch, then you don't get the hearing and opportunity to be published.
The other specialized document which every writer needs to learn to craft—whether they write fiction or nonfiction is a book proposal, which is your business plan for your book. The proposal contains information which never appears in your manuscript but the various gatekeepers like agents and editors use to make decisions. Even if you self-publish your book, you still need a proposal.
There is often a lot of change within editorial offices. You have to reach these new editors, develop your relationships with them and pitch your ideas. Then when they agree to look at it, your pitch has to be on track and something they will want. It sounds simple but there are many places where the process can be stopped.
Also as an author, I have to use a gentle follow-up when I don't get a response. Every editor or agent get a lot of email and if you don't follow-up, it's easy for that pitch to slip through the cracks and not happen. Your approach has to be gentle and not pushy—because the easiest answer to get (and one you don't want) is “no thank you” or silence. These follow-up skills are something everyone can develop but are often a part of the mundance aspects or repetitive aspects of publishing.
Part of being an author is to market my work in various ways such as email, social media, magazines, media interviews or numerous other ways. As an author, I report my activities to my publisher, who passes these activities on to our sales team who passes it on to the bookstores. This communication process is important and what keeps my books out in the bookstores (selling rather than getting returned). But filling out these forms is routine and mundane—yet a necessary part of this business. At the core, we are in the communication business and you have to communicate in the expected manner.
These are just a few of the routine tasks that I do in my writing life. I have a number of other routine tasks that I do as an acquisitions editor. Even if I don't like them, I can't ignore them because they are a part of the business. Much of what I do is outside of my direct control.
Here's what I can do:
--be responsible for my own actions.
--keep pitching and knocking on new doors as well as places where I have established a relationship.
--keep doing the routine —even when something crashes or gets cancelled (which has happened recently)
--use the gentle follow-up when you aren't getting response. It's what I have been doing over and over (yes mundane) for years.
It's not easy but possible—if you continue down the path. As I've written about some of the obstacles are my own internal struggles. My advice is to just do it. Otherwise it often does not happen.
How do you face the mundane aspects of the writing life? Ignoring it will not make it go away. My encouragement is to keep doing it. Let me know in the comments below.