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Episode 034 | Balancing Creative and Business Writing Work

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If you’ve been listening to the show, you’ve heard me mention the 100 Rejections Challenge, which is the idea that we try to get 100 rejections, knowing that we’ll likely get some acceptances mixed in there. It’s a great way to take the sting out of your rejections and get more of your work out there.

Say you’re on board for giving it a whirl. What exactly does that mean in terms of brass tacks? Because just saying you want to do something will not get it done. Trust me. I’ve tried this (a lot), and it doesn’t work. What does?

Just like your writing, you have to:

  1. Ask yourself some questions first.

  2. Where do you want to submit and why?

  3. What fits your goals and resources?

  4. Do you have funds to devote to entry fees?

  5. What are you looking to get out of the publishing experience (prize money, clips, name recognition, etc.)?

  6. What sorts of resources (e,g, Query Tracker, Manuscript Wish List, Duotrope, Writer’s Market, writing magazine listings, Google search) will you use to search for submission opportunities?

  7. What pieces of work do you want to submit?

  8. Are they already ready to go?

  9. If not, what still needs to be done? When do you think you’ll have them done?

  10. Make space for your business work.

  11. How are you going to keep track of submission opportunities?

  12. How are you going to track your actual submissions?

  13. Do you prefer analog (e.g. a list in a notebook) or digital (e.g. spreadsheet)?

  14. If digital, do you want to use a service like Submittable or Duotrope to keep track of them or create a spreadsheet of your own to track them?

  15. Make time for your work. Here’s another tried-and-true quotable I tend to overuse: “Someday is not a day of the week.”

  16. How often will you work on the business side of your work?

  17. Do you want to make a little time every (or most days) like David Mamet advises in his Masterclass?

  18. Or do you want to set aside a day a week (or every other week, or once a month, depending on your wants/needs/abilities) to focus on your submissions?

  19. How will you use your writing business work to inform and motivate your creative writing work? For example, can you use contest deadlines to help you set a personal goal for that final revision?

Obviously, it doesn’t do you much good to spend a lot of time on your writing business work if you have nothing to submit or publish. HOWEVER, let me tell you a quick story about my work in progress (WIP), Molly Bright.

At one point, I found myself stuck in the middle of a novel I’d been working on. I found all kinds of reasons to procrastinate and my writing habit suffered. I decided to take a writing class through my local university’s continuing studies program to give myself the kick in the pants (read: deadlines) I needed to get my habit restarted. It was a (fantastic) genre short story writing class. (Shout out to Kurian Johnson!) At that time, I had very little interest in publishing short stories, but I decided that if I was going to write them, I might as well try to publish them.

We were given our first assignment in the genre of horror. While I was thinking about what to do with that assignment and before I wrote a word, I checked my Writer’s Market and found that several journals were running contests for horror short stories. I chose one, in part because its theme (“Toys in the Attic”) captured my interest. I had a general idea of what I wanted to write my story about (the Reverse Underground Railroad), and I had a good time including the prompts laid out in the contest (i.e. must include a toy, in an upper story of a building, in winter) into my story.

In the end, that horror story, a story in a genre I’d never written in before and that was informed by a submission strategy, grabbed hold of me and wouldn’t let go. It evolved into a full novel-in-stories that has gotten some nibbles — albeit no bites (yet!) — from several agents and a third-place finish in the mainstream category of a national novel contest (Colorado Gold Writing Contest).

On a similar front, I once entered an essay contest sponsored by The Writer magazine. I didn’t win the contest, but they contacted me afterward and asked if I would be willing to have it published in an upcoming issue. (Hell yes!)

You really don’t know where your submissions will take you, but I can guarantee you that they have a better chance of taking you somewhere than manuscripts that are stuck in the bottom of your drawer or the languishing in the purgatory of your cloud.

So while you’re securing enough time to do your creative writing work, set aside a concrete amount of time and space to do the work required to get your work out into the world.

Again, I can’t overstate how much the HB90 System has helped me. It’s a quarterly planning system that has really helped me focus. Consider giving it a look and seeing if it’s something that can be helpful to you, too. Or consider trying The Rookie Writer Playbook Annual Planner on Etsy.

Until then, happy writing people!


  1. The Rookie Writer Playbook Annual Planner

  2. HB90 Quarterly Planning Bootcamp

  3. Balancing Art and Business by Carolyn Edlund

  4. Balancing the Art of Writing with the Business of Publishing by Jane Friedman

  5. David Mamet Masterclass – “Do one thing every day for your art and one thing every day for your business.”

  6. Finding a Balance Between Writing and Marketing by Jane Friedman

  7. Finding Balance Between Business & Creative Time by Eugenia Loli

  8. How to Balance Art and Business with Tara Gentile by Joanna Penn

#100rejections #EtsyPlanner #HB90

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