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Knowing Your Writing
by Kathryn Lay

In order to have made 550 article, story, and essay sales (100 in the first 6 months of 2001); in order to keep 50-75 manuscripts and queries in the mail at all times, I have learned that I must know my writing.

When a new market presents itself, my mind begins to turn. Do I have a manuscript I can send, an idea I can query, or a reprint that will fit this publication? How can I find the answer to these questions quickly and get something out in the mail or e-mail?

1. DISK IT

Most all of my writings are on disks. Twice. I never rely on my hard drive or one disk to keep my manuscripts safe.

I also have certain disks for certain topics, such as feature articles that required lots of research. Or chapters and notes for specific novels and books. I have a disk for query letters, making it easy to change the address and the focus if necessary without hunting for and redoing the whole letter. I have a disk for works-in-progress. It's not always possible to have hard copies of everything you write, so keeping organized disks makes sense.

2. WRITE IT DOWN TO FIND IT WITH EASE

A blank notebook helps me keep record of what piece of writing is on each disk. I have separate pages for each, listing everything on that disk

Before I began this record-keeping, finding a specific story or article on a disk was time-consuming. Now, I just search the pages, find the correct disk and am quickly able to print a copy or change it to a text file for sending via email.

3. ORGANIZE IT

Keeping so many manuscripts in the mail, I have to be careful about knowing where

I've sent a piece and if it's sold.

I keep a 3 ring binder for record-keeping of manuscripts. The first section is for those that have not sold. A page for each piece lists where it's been sent, dates, and responses. A list on the back tells where I can send it next. The second half of the notebook is for sold manuscripts. When a piece is accepted, a gold star sticker is put at the top, then the page is transferred to the back section of the binder. A new list for reprint ideas is added to the back of that manuscript's information page.

This keeps me from resending to the same market, or sending something for reprint that the rights aren't available yet. It also makes it easy to know where my manuscripts or queries are going next.

4. BE AWARE OF IT

I am aware of what I have written, and because of that, when a new market is found, I I'm able to quickly discover whether I have something that will fit their needs. Within a half hour of finding a new market, I can generally have something printed and ready to mail, or a query redone and clips added.

When too busy to market, I write down the publication, manuscript name, what disk it is located on, and a deadline (if any) to submit. Then, when I have a Marketing Day once a week or month, I have a ready-made list of manuscripts and queries to prepare and send out.

A writer's mind is often awhirl with ideas and plans for writing. That creative part of the brain takes over most of the time. When it comes to marketing, many writers crash and burn. Beautiful stories, informative articles, poignant essays languish in the innards of a computer or printed out and sitting in a drawer because of lack of marketing skills. The Right Brain can be taught to work with the creative part of our mind. I find the act of marketing my work almost as exciting and creative as the writing. It's a chase. A quest. A challenge.

In less than 2 years I sold 24 pieces to 19 anthologies. Many were reprints. When a call comes out for a new anthology, I check the theme and search my Notebook of Disks. When I am aware of what I've written, my thoughts are always turned to finding markets that fit the need.

5. TAKE ACTION WITH IT

Besides 'being aware' of my manuscripts and ideas and markets, I have learned to 'take action.' It isn't enough to see the market and to know you can submit to it, you must also take action.

When a fellow writer told the members of a writer's group about a new city magazine looking for helpful articles on travel issues, I wrote down the contact information. I saw others in the group of 30 or so writers jot down the information. The next morning, a Wednesday, I came up with an idea, researched it, and wrote a short piece of about 500 words on what to do with your pet when traveling. I mailed it on Thursday. Monday, I received a call from the editor. She loved it and was sending a contract and check. By that Tuesday's critique meeting, I was able to share my sale.

Everyone was shocked. No one else had submitted. Why? There were several who said they wanted to, had considered it, even had an idea, but they hadn't ACTED. By putting off acting on some situations, I've been too late and lost out on publishing opportunities I've regretted.

Becoming an organized writer is a must for my career. Throughout the last 10 years of my writing, I've been involved with many writers groups, almost always in a leadership position. I'm involved in volunteer activities with my husband, home school my daughter, have family in town, teach online writing courses, and spend time with friends. I have to use my writing time wisely.

In January 2001, after an amazing year in 2000 of selling to 24 new markets (including Woman's Day, Decision, Eckerds magazine, Parenting, and more) and breaking the 500 sale mark, I vowed to make 100 sales in the first 6 months of the year. On June 30, 2001, I had two acceptances, making 101 sales since January 1.

It's not because my writing is amazing or more clever than others. It's not because I'm friends with editors or write for free (I rarely if ever do any more) or sell 20 pieces to the same publication. It's only because I know my writing, I keep track of it, and I act when the opportunity comes.

Anyone can do it. You can too. Do you know your writing? If not, introduce yourself and watch those bylines grow.

© Copyright 2001, Kathryn Lay

Kathryn Lay is the author of 26 books for children, over 2000 articles, essays and stories for children and adults and the book from AWOC.COM Publishing, The Organized Writer is a Selling Writer. Check out her website at www.kathrynlay.com and email through rlay15@aol.com

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