The Pleasure of Writing
April 19, 2010 8:11 AM   Subscribe

I enjoy writing as a hobby, have had some success freelancing, but the immediacy of the internet may be preventing me from moving forward -- how to deal with waiting for somebody to accept a query letter, versus writing for my blog to get the satisfaction of instant publication?

I enjoy writing for fun, but like any hobby I want to improve my skills, like somebody who jogs for fun working towards running in a marathon. I feel like if I want to advance further I need to aim towards being published by higher-quality outlets rather than self-publishing a blog or ConstantContent or the local newspaper, along with the rejection and learning experience which comes from raising the bar.

Unless you've got an 'in' with the publisher, the usual process is to send query letters to publications, and wait for somebody to buy the article, then work with an editor to fit the query article into the publication's requirements. This delay between conception and fruition, however, feels like postponing the gratification of writing, especially if it's going to be months to wait for a response because of how low I am on the totem pole -- so my urge is just to write it, post it to a blog, and get the gratification quickly. I want to know how writers delay that satisfaction which comes from a finished product: sitting on articles and waiting for a publication to accept the project, versus jumping in and writing it first.

(One assumption I'm making, which might be part of the problem, is that it takes a long time for responses to query letters. If there's a guideline, like, 'if you don't get any takers in six weeks then it's probably dead and self-publishing is fine', that advice is welcome, too.)
posted by AzraelBrown to Writing & Language (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
why deny yourself the pleasure? why not do both? i've seen plenty of articles that started out as a blog post and then went on to publication.
posted by elle.jeezy at 8:50 AM on April 19, 2010

A writer writes so by all means WRITE. The only waiting you should be doing is on tables (if required to pay the rent).
posted by philip-random at 9:33 AM on April 19, 2010

Maybe this is another assumption I'm making: I'm under the impression that magazines want articles that have not been published before, or are not already 'complete' -- re-writing an existing article to fit guidelines, or submitting an already-published article, are either discouraged or outright unallowed. I'm not ceasing all writing, but, let's say, I learn about something cool, and I write two hundred words for Metafilter, but then I decide to send out queries to Midwest Monthly, WWII History, etc., etc.; it doesn't prevent me from making the post at Metafilter -- but I can't, rightly, start researching and writing an article for which I have no editorial direction from the publications I'm shopping towards, and if I write that article I can't do anything with it, 'rights of first publication' and all, until I know it's not going to sell. I know some places are fine with 'just take the blog post down when it sells" (I've done that already too), but it really limits the options for selling an article. Again, maybe I'm missing something in my assumptions.
posted by AzraelBrown at 9:48 AM on April 19, 2010

[Long-time freelancer here]

Queries themselves can be creative and satisfying. Pour your energy into new, well-researched queries (The Renegade Writer by Linda Formichelli is a great resource). You can spin off the same idea into several different queries, so I'd focus on that instead of just throwing in the towel. Most legit pubs are NOT going to be okay with "take the blog post down when it's done," and frankly it's not the best use of your time to write the entire article beforehand.

If you're fascinated in one topic, I'd say build out a robust blog about that and then use that to sell your specific articles. Correct me if I'm wrong, but your all-or-nothing mentality smacks a bit of fear-based procrastination. It's okay to focus, try hard, wait, and try again. It's all part of the process.

Best of luck to you!
posted by mynameisluka at 10:59 AM on April 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wow -- I've read and re-read what I wrote, and I'm still not understanding the assumptions that I'm "throwing in the towel" or not writing. Maybe my "more inside" was too much explanation; how about rephrasing it in a simpler way:

What do magazine writers do with their interesting article ideas during the weeks or months when they're waiting for a query letter response, since the usual protocols discourage writers from completing the article until they have the help from an editor at that publication?
posted by AzraelBrown at 6:02 AM on April 20, 2010

Even though protocols discourage you from writing the article, if it will bring you some satisfaction, I would say to write it anyway (just don't post it to your blog). You can always go back and edit as per a particular publication's requests when and if you get accepted.
Hopefully you can get pleasure from the creative process, even if you have to hold off on the gratification of having it published. Then, if you don't get it accepted eventually, you can put it up on your blog as is.

Alternately, maybe you can do a teaser or excerpt from the piece on your blog.

I think query times can vary widely. Some publications do give their response time up front.
posted by couch fort dinner party at 1:56 PM on April 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

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