Julie's Quest

Hello, and welcome to my blog. My blog is about the trials and tribulations of writing, where we celebrate successes and commiserate our near misses. We tell it like it is here and will do our very best to help you on the road to being published and pick you up after the rejections (they will come!) Whether you are a professional or amateur writer you will find something useful here.

I hope you enjoy reading my posts and will visit again soon.

Happy Writing

Julie Phillips - freelance writer - member of the Association of Freelance Writers - member of the Society of Authors

Monday, 5 October 2009

Is It Or Isn't It?

So, if you're anything like me, you've read all the latest women's mags carrying fiction, and as many back copies as you can get your hands on. You've studied the style, content, language, story lines, to within an inch of their lives. I've been through this analytic process a fair few times over the last two years I have been writing and what always surprises me is the amount of different stories that get published.

I find the quality of the writing in these published stories both daunting and inspiring. On the one hand, I have this scathing voice at the back of my mind saying,
"You'll never be able to write a story like that so you might as well give up now." But I also have this warm, encouraging voice saying, "Go on, you can do it. Learn what it is about the stories that make them so good and infuse it into your own." I find myself swinging between the two voices.

In the two years I've been writing I have had a lot published. Granted they have mainly been reader letters in magazines and newspapers, a couple of poems in a writing magazine and more on an on-line poetry site,several articles in The Link (NAWG mag),and articles in two community mags. But there have been some gems like a short story in That's Life (Australia), an upcoming article in Writers' Forum, and a feature to be published in the local newspaper. I am proud of all of my writing achievements - big or small. And so you should be proud of your acheivements too.

Writing success doesn't happen overnight and it takes a lot of hard work and a determination to succeed as well as a willingness and ability to learn and adapt. I know this - it's become second nature for me to write through the doubt and lethargy and rejection after rejection. So why do I do it?

I do it because it's not all doom and gloom. I write because I love the creativity and the process of creating something, of conjuring up images in my head that become characters and stories. I love making things up and seeing where my characters are going to take me today - it's always where I least expect it. I find it therapeutic to sit and type out a story; it's as though I'm letting go of all my worries and by letting two characters interact and solve their conflict (whether that means a negative or positive ending)somehow helps me to resolve my own difficulties. Although my stories aren't autobiographical I do use things I've over heard or bits of people I know in them. It's great stress relief!!

I'm sure we all get days when the words just won't flow, or the story isn't working. We've had our umpteen rejection letter this week and we just don't think we can find the energy to carry on writing. I know I'm keen to be published again and I admit I find it frustrating that I haven't managed to get another short story published yet. But I'm still trying.

So how do we get over this? Well I don't have any real answers but I can just tell you what I've found helpful.

Support - It helps, as a writer, if you have the support and encouragement of other writers. They really keep you going because they're going through the same as you. There are many blogs in Blog land by such wonderful, experienced writers giving advice and an insight in to their writing lives. Read and comment on these blogs - you can learn so much from them.

Don't write - It seems a strange thing to say, but I haven't lost all of my marbles (not yet anyway). Taking a break from writing and getting out in to the real world really does rejuvenate the creative muscle. The knack is to find a balance between knowing when a break will be beneficial to you, when you are procrastinating, and when you are flogging a dead horse which does neither you or your writing any good.

Read, read, read - I've read all the short stories in all of the women's magazines and specials known to man (well at least it feels like it!) And I will probably be reading a lot more. I can't stress how important it is to read the markets you are writing for. But it's not just a case of reading them once, cracking off your story and sending it off; You have to keep reading them because the style of story acceptable a few years ago might not be so now. And you have to dissect the stories - and ask why they work. Look at word count, pace, ratio of dialogue to narrative, characters, setting, language - anything else you like about the story.

It's not easy to transpose what makes a publishable story into your own work. If there is a magic formula I haven't found it yet!But I do know if you keep reading, learning and writing you have a better chance of being published. Even though I know there is a high chance my stories will get rejected,I also know there is a chance they'll get published - and that's what keeps me going.

Keep writing, but don't burn the candle at both ends and stress yourself out in the process. It does us all good to take regular breaks so we get back to our writing with fresh eyes and a new found enthusiasm. I've been published and I can do it again. If you haven't been published but are trying to be - carry on. I never thought I would get published at all when I first started. I was a nurse who did a writing course with no previous writing experience. So if I can do it, so can you - if you're prepared to work for it.

Let us know how you get on.

Happy writing

Julie xx


Teresa Ashby said...

Another inspiring post from you, Julie!
You are doing brilliantly with all your published work.
Your writing voice comes through in your blog and I don't think you'll have to wait too much longer for that second story sale :-)

Julie P said...

Thanks, Teresa! I'm having such a good time, despite the niggles and frustrations and I'm so appreciative of all the encouragement, support and advice I've got from everyone in Blog Land, including yourself.

I hope I can help other writers who are trying to get published too. I think it's important as writers that we learn and we pass our knowledge and experiences on.

Julie xx

Olivia Ryan said...

I agree - your posts are great, Julie, and I think they get better all the time and I'm sure the same is true of your writing as you are doing so well and have such a good attitude. xx I also agree that writers, generally, are very supportive to each other and certainly on the blogs I read (not as many as I'd like to, or I'd never do any writing!) this is very true.

Julie P said...

Thanks, Olivia (blushes!) I agre, there are so many great blogs out there but if I read them all, all of the time, I'd never write anything. So I tend to dip in and out of them and always try to read a new one at least once a week - but it doesn't always pan out that way!

Julie xx

The Buddhist Conservative said...

As one of your fans, I encourage you to keep the positive voice alive.

It is great to read the publications you would like to publish your articles but it is more important to keep developing your own style. You have a very good natural flow to your posts here which is your style.

Patience is a mixed bag. It will pay off in the long run but can be very frustrating. You will do it!!


klahanie said...

Hi Julie,
Another highly informative blog. Let me also extend hearty congratulations on all that you have achieved and, no doubt, with your determination, you will have many follow-on successes in your writing exploits.
I sense a real spirit of support amongst your writing community friends. This must be most empowering.
I find your continuing quest most fascinating. Writing can indeed be a powerful and therapeutic outlet. However, like you allude too, it is good to maintain a healthy balance and take a break. Get out and explore all that the great outdoors has to offer.
With respect, one of your 'Blogland' friends, Gary

Julie P said...

Thanks, Roger! Most of the time I just get on with my writing while I'm waiting for verdicts on my other stuff that's out there, but sometimes I feel ready to throw in the towel. Luckily the urges to throw in the towel are getting less and less as I get more and more of my work published.

I'm just interested in helping other writers who are trying to get published get over their insecurities about their work and their reluctance to send their work out and just go for it! But I also like hearing about writers who write for their own pleasure and have no intention to get their work published as I think it's just as important.

Julie xx

Julie P said...

Hi, Gary

Yes, they are a spirited lot in Blog Land - and I'm glad of that! The level of support and encouragement is wonderful and so motivating.

Today I'm taking my own advice and getting out and about for a while! I think if we concentrate too much on writing, or whatever it is that we are interested in, and it becomes an obsession , it severely hampers our enjoyment and progress. So it's healthy to let go and do something else - or sit and do nothing.

Thank you for your kind comments about my journey and blog. Long may all our blogs prosper!

Julie xx