From Sarah, With Joy

Writer querying two novels and some other word babies. I tend to effervesce.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Using Contests and Submission Calls for Ideas

Lately I have been struck by just how many opportunities there are for writers out there, and I'm thrilled. Just within fiction and poetry, there are way too many calls and contests and submission opportunities to even keep track of, let alone submit to. But its fun to try :)

I have recently discovered a way that working on multiple projects has been great for me. I'm not sure I could ever do more than one novel at a time, but working on my novel and then also working on short stories and other pieces for submissions has been an absolute blast.


One of my favorite resources is the Calls for Submissions page on the NewPages website. I like to go through it and several other pages and then curate it into my own list of options that look interesting. (Check the "Paying Gigs for Writers" tab up above for other great resources). A couple of my favorite are are First Line Magazine's upcoming deadline on Aug. 1, and a Mars Colonization anthology due in November. When I am stuck or worked through on my novel for the day, I work on shorter projects like this.

It adds variety, and a feeling of satisfaction that I'm getting more done.

People often talk about how they like absolutely no restrictions in order to feel creative, but I've actually found the opposite to be the case. Rather than staring at a blank screen wondering what to work on, these contests and submission calls provide enough of a prompt to get me going. It's not at all about working on something I don't find interesting; its about searching for opportunities and prompts that spark something. Then when you're done, you know exactly where you're sending it first.

Sometimes random brainstorming works great too, and I think that's a valuable strategy to have. I just wanted to share a strategy that has been working well for me lately. Working well in terms of getting me writing. Publication success on these projects is, of course, TBD. But even if the pieces aren't accepted by the original prompter, I will have more pieces to submit other places.

Do you think this is a useful strategy? What other strategies do you use for getting ideas and/or finding writing opportunities?

Sarah Allen

9 comments:

  1. I like working to prompts, and I also like the occasional urgency of a deadline involved when that isn't how I normally work. It can lead to ideas and pieces that might not have existed otherwise!

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    1. Exactly! Those deadlines and "restrictions" can actually be what frees you from the blank page. At least that's how it often is for me.

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  2. Thanks for the links! Glad those are prompting you to write. It is better than staring at a blank screen.

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    1. Yep. Blank screen can be the worst kind of creative "freedom." Glad these links help!

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  3. I have found exactly the same thing - I'm revising a novel but also submitting articles, poems and short stories. It's great creative exercise and sometimes, as you say, the constraints actually improve my novel writing. The subscription advice for short stories for a woman's magazine urged writers to make sure the dialogue moved the plot on - and this gave me a whole new revising tool for the novel. Thanks for the link too!

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    1. Awesome!! Yeah, having one big project and several smaller projects going at once has turned out to feel really great, I hope I can keep it up. And the tips and advice from these contests as writing lessons for all your other work is another great angle to take on this! Great thoughts!

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  4. I also work better with deadlines, real or self-imposed, while multi-tasking. There are some people who can't do that, though, and stick to one thing at a time. I had a post-doc like that and it drove me crazy because it seemed to take twice as long for him to get anything done. His reasoning was that he needed to focus on just one thing and do it right, so I accepted that!

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    1. Haha :) Yes. We do all have our own ways of working. I know this method has helped for me, hope it can help others as well!

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  5. My local writing group, Western Ohio Writers Association, does regular public readings at area bookstores (or any place that will have us). We pick a theme and everyone who wants to participate writes a piece on that theme to read aloud. It's a great writing exercise plus we get practice reading our writing in public.

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