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Your Past Can Pay for Your Future
by Shaunna Privratsky

If you have been writing for awhile, you could be sitting on a goldmine. Your past can yield a wealth of information to shape your writing career.

The first step is to dig out your records of all your past submissions and sales. What was your very first sale or acceptance? Was it a short story, essay, article, poem or something else? Whatever your answer, it is an important clue to where your talents reside. Go back to your writing roots, where you first got your pen wet. You may rediscover a strong niche for your writing.

My first sale was an essay about my Mom. Almost every essay I wrote was accepted right away, but somehow I drifted away from personal writing. When I recently wrote about my husband's medical problems last year, I earned another sale.

Although it is beneficial to diversify and try new styles of writing, it can be more lucrative to work in the genre you excel at. Again, looking back at your sales history will point you in the right direction. A whiz at quizzes? Why did you quit submitting them? At the very least, it should spark some new ideas for submissions.

Look at your rejections, too. Much as we writers hate them, they can be a stepping stone to future sales. Are there some editors who expressed interest, but you didn't follow up because they rejected your first submission? Go back and think of a new query or submit something better.

You can build on rejections, especially positive ones that mention "we liked your piece, it just doesn't fit the schedule." Or maybe you will find some underdeveloped markets. You might have had a couple small sales, or a rejection or two, and gave up. It's never too late to cash in on name recognition. The more times you submit to a particular market, the more familiar your name will be. So get back to the keyboard and send something else. There could be a sale waiting behind the next keystroke. I tried this with half a dozen "small" markets and ended up with $120 worth of acceptances and some solid new contacts for future sales.

Notice your writing cycle. Everyone has a rhythm. The different seasons, your family or other outside influences may change or affect it at different times. Find patterns in your cycle and use it for motivation.

I noticed a pattern in my cycle-typically my submissions and consequently my sales dropped off in July. I made a concentrated effort to overcome this "summer slump" and kept submitting. It's finally paying off - ten recent acceptances, one of them an assignment from a semi-national magazine!

Take a look at your work, both accepted and those still waiting for homes. Is there an underlying theme or idea? What you know and what you enjoy can add up to big bucks. Adding a few details about your hobbies can mean the difference between a lackluster how-to and a lively published piece in your favorite magazine. I just sold "Passionate about Painting" based on my knowledge and love of decorating.

Do you have some higher paying sales under your writing belt? Build on those in your next queries and submissions. The publishing world is very conscious of credits and if you show what you've already accomplished, you are halfway there. The rest is up to the quality of your work. You may already do this, but you might find a nugget or two in your past sales.

Lastly, use your history to map out a plan for the future. If you spot a direction that you'd like to explore further, take the steps necessary and go for it. Mine your past markets for new opportunities. Rebuild working relationships to form lasting contacts. Pinpoint your strengths and interests to focus your talent. Find out what worked in the past and expand on it. Monitor your personal writing cycle to motivate and inspire you. Rediscover your writing roots and unlock the key to your writing success. Your past can pay for your future.

© Copyright 2009, Shaunna Privratsky

Shaunna Privratsky writes fulltime from North Dakota, in between shoveling snow. Please visit The Writer Within at http://shaunna67.tripod.com. We are looking for new writers and we are a paying market.

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