Many eggs, many baskets (Archived)

Most of us would have heard the old saying: “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. These days we can always pop back down to the store for more eggs, but the wisdom and visual of the saying remains sound. The delicate products of our creative souls and passionate hearts can just as easily be reduced to a shattered, sloppy mess at our feet.

For the first few decades of my writing life I would spend years honing a bloated, clumsily-structured novel-length story. I’d pack it off to an agent or publisher and their rejection would crush me. The writing project would instantly lose its sparkle. Most documents were rarely looked at again.

This is not the behaviour of a professional writer, or even a writer who is trying to become a part-time semi-professional sort of writer.

In 2019 I focused on producing shorter pieces, both to improve my writing but also to produce something more marketable. This was an awkward shift that went against my grain, but I now genuinely enjoy producing shorter pieces. These are also faster to write, edit and find new opportunities for.

Constantly improving and honing our writing is essential, but so is ensuring we have skin in the game. Spending years creating something, then sending it out to one place puts a lot of eggs in one basket. I began 2019 with a strategy to send out one piece a quarter. This rapidly evolved into a sending off a few pieces every quarter.

I have read numerous times that you should aim for 100 rejections a year. Not because this is some magic number that tickles the universe into vomiting up a giant chunk of victory into your eagerly outstretched hands, but because this tilts the odds in our favour. Constantly producing things improves our craft and gives us fodder for friends and writing groups to provide feedback. It minimises the crushing disappointment of a rejection, because even as that rejection slaps you from your inbox, hope thrums from other projects circulating.

As 2019 draws to a close I decided to embrace this. I was determined to get a number of pieces out there and keep them busy. This meant changing my practice of having a year-long sook because one place said no.

I keep a spreadsheet of all my marketable pieces — novel-length, novellas and short stories. There is a program called Duotrope that helps with this, but I prefer to have it on my computer and I am still mastering Duotrope. My spreadsheet lists where I have sent a piece so I don’t send it to the same place twice and I colour-code the current status (red means I’m awaiting a reply, black means it was rejected, grey is a future opportunity).

A vital step in this strategy is planning where I will send that piece next. As anthology or competition opportunities emerge or I spot magazines that might take a piece, I add that as a potential future destination for that piece. This is not an excuse to flick things at everyone who has an email address. It’s vital I treat each opportunity with respect, ensuring I understand what that place publishes and adjusting my piece to their submission criteria. When I get a rejection, I have a list of places where I can send this piece next. It’s vital I don’t descend too deeply into the bowels of a sook, so jumping back on the horse within hours or a day of a rejection is part of my strategy.

My current plan is to ensure I have between 5 to 10 pieces circulating at all times. This ensures there are always several pots on the boil. As rejections flow in, I am forced to ensure an equal outflow of pieces to fresh opportunities.

What do you do to actively market your creativity? What strategies are you using to increase your odds for success?

(Posted 22 Dec 2019. Follow me at: https://nicolewalshauthor.com/)

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