From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Thursday, April 25, 2013

V is for Volume and Variety

I've heard it said in many places, and in several different ways, that the key to a successful career as a writer (or any type of artist) is two-fold: volume, and variety.

Basically this means to write lots of different things and put them lots of different places. Here are ten different ways we can try and incorporate that advice.

1. Publish novels in different venues: The options for writers are only expanding. It is no longer necessary to be in one "camp," or one side of the publishing fence. Rather, you can focus on traditional publishing while also working on self-publishing projects and submitting to small publishers. Or any combination you choose. All within contract boundaries, of course, but the point is that we can put even our big projects in lots of places.

2. Submit short pieces to magazines: There are so, so many magazines out there. Whether personal essay, short story, flash fiction, poetry, whatever--leave a little portion of your time and energy to these smaller projects and finding them homes in the many fabulous literary magazines available.

3. Submit to contests: There are contests going on all the time for books, short story collections, poetry chapbooks, individual pieces, everything. The Poets and Writers website has a fantastic list. I like the idea of continually working on those shorter pieces until you have something ready to submit to one of these awesome competitions. And then keep submitting.

4. Query articles: Even for us fiction writers, occasionally branching out into non-fiction and article writing could be a good idea. It expands our writing, our readership, and our credentials. Find something you're passionate about, an idea you want to explore, and then magazines that feature that subject. Query, and keep querying. You never know what cool experiences and networking opportunities you will find.

5. Try script: Screen and playwriting come with their own set of rules and guidelines. However, after some research and practice, they could also present some great opportunities. There are also competitions going on all the time for plays, and why not submit a movie script to Hollywood and see what happens?

6. Experiment with genre: This is where I think self-publishing could be fun. I think we all have a genre we like best, that we normally work in. But sometimes you want to try something new. If you write contemporary, try science fiction or a picture book. If you write science fiction, try historical or romance. Often your editor at a traditional publishing house won't want you going too far outside your genre, but within contractual bounds, writing something in a new genre perhaps under a new name and self-publishing could potentially get you a whole new readership. Or if you self-publish anyway, then its just a matter of expanding your circle.

7. Collaborate: I don't think there is any better way of introducing yourself to a new group of people. The group is already there, listening to someone they trust, who is now working with you. This can work for anything from books to YouTube videos. This also includes submitting pieces for consideration in anthologies. Collaboration is a great way to add volume and variety to your work.

8. Experiment in unusual venues: With shorter pieces, (and again, within contractual bounds of course) this could be fun. There are so many cool ways to do this. Make a video poem and put it on YouTube. Make a Tumblr blog or Pinterest board dedicated to your photo-poems. Produce your own mini-script and put it online. Tweet flash-fiction. Anything you can think of, why not try it out?

9. Say it out-loud: Speaking engagements have become, in a way, the modern day writer's bread and butter. This is particularly true for non-fiction. But I think any writer can only benefit from looking in to this side of things. Contact everyone: libraries, schools, book fairs, local colleges, book clubs, conferences, etc. Not every contact is going to pan out, and in fact most of them won't. But in this case I think its best to be like a dandelion, spreading your seeds as far and wide as possible until a few of them stick.

10. Write every day: This is obviously the key point. Whatever you end up doing with your writing, whatever the piece turns out to be, you can't do anything with it if you don't have it. So get those words down. Work on those big projects, the novels and screenplays, and on days when you're not feeling those, work on a short story or poetry chap book. A little bit every day goes a long, long way.

Anyway, hopefully this can get us all started on keeping volume and variety a part of our writing career. Do you think these ideas are worth the effort? What other opportunities would you add to this list?

Sarah Allen


  1. Sarah Allen, this is a great post and a timely reminder for me - thank you. There was a time when I berated myself for spending too much time marketing my memoir and not enough time writing new material. Then I realized that I've developed new skills, and that's always a good thing. So, I started writing about that and a lot of that material is going to go into my new book. A lot has been written about 'blogging a book,' and that's another option to add to your fantastic list. -Belinda.

  2. Very good post,Sarah. Insightful and knowledgeable. Thanks for sharing.

  3. i think you have given some excellent ideas and points--one of my sons, is a writer--he does a lot of comedy writing and plays--he gets a lot more done with his writing buddies :)

  4. Great post. There are lots of things for writers to try instead of focusing on one project.

  5. Really great advice! I have a couple books on screenwriting. It's something that I would like to get into at some point.

  6. Super suggestions Sarah. I just need to re-read this post over and over again and again. LOL

  7. Well said. We can't be reminded often enough to spread our wings as writers and try different things.


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