Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Writing Today for Tomorrow's World

"If you had sent this to me three weeks ago, I could have used it.," one editor said.  Gaack! Why didn't I think of doing this article sooner?

This month, many folk have talked about school starting. Come the second or third week of November, they'll talk about Thanksgiving get togethers.  About the second week of December, families will be inundated with Christmas programs, shopping, decorating, and holiday plans.  Writer's don't have the privilege of planning for an occassion one-to-two weeks in advance.

Creative is Crucial
June and July are prime months to send Christmas material to publishers.   While the sun blazes on the garden, we get to imagine crisp snow crunching under tires, pine scent in our living room, Christmas music and lights, wrapped packages, and a house full of guests wrapped around the dinning room table feasting on ham and watching Uncle Joe toss baby Jane to Uncle David--praying he doesn't drop her.  We must wipe the summer sweat from our brow and tap snowy words into our computer. Now that August is here, we need to think of New Year's and Valentine's Day.

Tyranny of Timeliness
For book writers, we get to anticipate reader's swing in interest two to three years down the road.  I finished my midevil Christian fantasy in time for vampires to shove Harry Potter off center stage.  Needless to say, even Christian publishers aren't interested in midevil Christian fantasy unless the writer has previously established himself in that market. Non fiction writers need to anticipate the needs of audiences in advance as well.  Our manuscripts must be ready to impact the readers of tomorrow not from today.

I don't have a crystal ball.  Nor do I want one.  In my frustration I might ask: how can I get published if I don't know what reader's will want?  Isn't it just luck--being in the right place at the right time--etc? 

Not at all. God will lead you. Chip McGregor, a Christian literary agent, has stated in his conference lectures: "If you writing is well done, it will get published."  Writer's who work to polish their craft will know what to write.  If you have a passion to write, follow through in a way that will get the words published.

Here are some tips: 

1. Plan Ahead:  If you are doing a Christmas piece, make sure it arrives to the publisher in time for him/her to push the manuscript through the ropes and on to publication to reach the readers before Christmas.  Magazine articles should be submitted six months in advance.  I'm not sure how far in advance a book manuscript needs to arrive, maybe someone can comment on that for me.

2. Spit Polished:  Save time by having your manuscript free of grammar errors, content problems, and issues with publisher requirements such as needed word count. Maybe a few steps can be saved and push your manuscript toward timely publication.

3. Respect:  Would you buy a Egg Nog in June?  Probably not.  Items are sold when a customer thinks to buy.  Some manufacturer somewhere thought to produce and market that item at the perfect time you thought to buy it.  Likewise publishers need time to choose manuscript, edit, send contracts, etc. before the published work can be offered to the public.  Check out the websites to determine publisher's needs and requirements.  Editors will respect you for your efforts and remember you.  He or she may not purchase your manuscript this time, but they might in the future.

4. Observe:  Keep an eye on events in the world around you.  Today's events may lead to tomorrow's responses. By staying tuned into what is going on now, you will better know what readers might need in the days to come.

Did your manuscript sell because it arrived on time?  Do you have woes, like me, because it arrived after the cut off time?  Share your experience.


Casey said...

I really appreciate this post, Mary. I love to write, but I often wonder if what I write is what the market wants. Just how popular is women's fiction? But reading that one little piece of advice from Chip was perfect, just what I needed, when I didn't know I needed it. Thank you Mary! Excellent points all around, I hadn't thought of a lot of those.

Mary Vee Storyteller said...

Thanks Casey. (I like your new pic:) )
If you ever have a chance to take a class with Chip, you should. He is hilarious--practical--encouraging--down-to-earth--and brimming with advice like what I included above.

Casey said...

I actually have taken a class with him! Susan May Warren and Chip were about 6 hours from where I live, so I went down there to take a two day workshop on writing. It was great and I totally agree with what you said, he is a great teacher. I even had breakfast that morning with him and his wife, very fun. :)

Thanks, I'm glad you like the new photo. My cousin took those while I was on vacation.

Lisa B. said...

I love this post! Thanks for all the tips.

I've had to do the whole writing a Christmas themed story in July--or was it June? Either way, It was difficult (and I was on vacation in hotter than hell Texas), but I just kept thinking, sights, smells, tastes, and vibes of Christmas. And I did it. And it got published last fall in a short story anthology. Every time I think of Christmas now, I remember my short Christmas in June (or July).