I have a bulging file of story ideas at home. In my mind they are already wonderful novels, articles or short stories. In fact, sometimes it’s tempting just to bask in the glory of their potential, rather than rolling up my sleeves and really getting down to work.

Writing for the love of it

Of course I love to write but producing something that I feel proud of requires a level of discipline that goes beyond penning something for myself. The beauty of a deadline is that is forces me into action, to stay up late and do the planning, revision, research and rewrites necessary to realise the potential of those initial story ideas.

It’s easy for life to get in the way but knowing something is ‘due’ certainly works for me.

Publishing

If you have a publisher then there is a great deal riding on your ability to complete your work on schedule. Editing, design, printing, distribution, marketing and publicity all take time and each department will no doubt be working to deadlines of their own.

I was lucky enough to witness this in action during the Year of the Novel at the NSW Writers’ Centre during 2015 whilst Emily Maguire was delivering her novel An Isolated Incident for publisher Pan Macmillan. This creative collaboration produced a superb result. The final product is a beautifully presented book, a wonderful read and a shortlist for the 2017 Stella Prize.

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If you’re getting your manuscript ready to submit to the ‘slush pile’, be warned that some publishers have set times and dates when they are willing to accept unsolicited manuscripts, for instance:

More information on publishers can be found through the Australian Publishers Association.

I imagine there are many considerations when choosing the best time to self-publish. If you are looking for guidance, you could visit sites such as The Self Published Author or consider engaging a professional consultant such as Joel Naoum former Momentum publisher and founder of Critical Mass. If you are in Sydney, Joel will also be running a new self publishing program at the NSW Writers’ Centre in June.

Writing competitions and articles

I’ve noticed that publishers and funding bodies (such as the Australia Council) ask for a list of awards or fellowships you have been granted or journals where your work has appeared. I imagine it speaks to skill, commitment and experience. Although initially sceptical I’ve personally found many benefits to entering competitions including:

  • a wonderful sense of accomplishment when you hit send
  • a deadline to work to
  • a complete set of promotional documents (such as synopsis, author bio etc)
  • gaining experience in writing to a set word count
  • promoting your writing to judging panels
  • writing to a set topic as a creative exercise
  • complying to industry manuscript formats
  • exposure to the writing of other authors
  • feeling part of a community of writers.

That’s a fair list of positives and I haven’t even mentioned winning.

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The Australian Society of Authors, the NSW Writers’ Centre (or your local writers’ centre), and organisations such as Varuna all promote writing competitions through their mailing lists.

As always, there are scammers willing to take your money, so beware of international ‘competitions’ asking for your cash with the promise of fame and fortune.

Submitting articles to journals such as The Griffith Review or Kill Your Darlings is a wonderful way to gain experience and promote your writing. If you have a short story between 300 and 3000 words The Big Issue is currently calling for fiction submissions (deadline 5 June).

Writing groups and courses

Joining a supportive writing group is a great way to stay motivated. Providing feedback to other writers and having a weekly, fortnightly or monthly deadline to work to has certainly kept me honest.

Likewise, a good writing course, one which helps you to hone your craft and supplies the opportunity to present your work, is a great idea.

Most local writers’ centres have both options and you may find your favourite author is running a workshop (for example in August you can head to the Cotswolds with Kate Forsyth), the Australian Writers’ Centre has plenty of courses to choose from and you can study with Future Learn and it won’t cost you a penny.

Happy writing!