Writing To Briefs

One of the advantages of my course is that it allows the embryonic writer to experiment, and most importantly, to make mistakes. Every writer who wants to make some kind of career out of writing should first identify what sort of writing they like to do.

Writing briefs requires that one identifies one’s target audience.  The writer should use any personalized rejection slips to refine the process of targeting. *

There are two methods suggested of writing to brief;

i.    Write what you want and hope to find a place for it.  The drawback to this is that you may write for years without ever selling anything. The market does not create niches for new writers.

ii.   Research and plan where to send it.  That can make the writer feel stale, and their work second-rate.

However, there is a third way…

iii. The amalgm is to write roughly to a brief, so that you write what you want, but tailor what you write so that the length will fit, and the story fits…so don’t send Analog a fantasy story.

Those who apply option i may take longer to sell their work because there is no specific niche; Philip Pullman is one example of this. Geraldine Kay took 63 attempts to sell her novel, while I took 72 — but in a way the process becomes self-motivating. Giving up is an admission that the writer has wasted that time in writing and submitting to date. 

A counterview is that the writer has to know when a work cannot be sold because it is not of sufficient standard. Every writer needs what Roger Zelazny called ‘an ego the size of a house’ and above all persistence. But self-belief and stubborness -like everything else – can be taken too far. 

*My scriptwriting lecturer Rachel Bentham took today’s lecture. She used to edit a poetry magazine, and she wondered why the male contributors would submit on more than one occasion, whereas the women that she rejected wouldn’t submit again. She wondered why this was. 

I have a theory; at the risk of generalizing, it could be that the women had lives beyond writing — children, careers, etc.  The men were probably more obsessive about their writing. And according to one (female) passer-by, ‘men are genetically programmed to overcome rejection…’

One Response to “Writing To Briefs”

  1. Juliana says:

    Rachel Bentham’s question reminds me of a fact I read about job postings: women won’t apply if they lack one or two qualifications out of several, whereas men will apply if they have one or two qualifications out of several.

    I think it helps to tell women this. My reaction was: if they can get away with that, so can I! It’s not a question of not being genetically programmed to be persistent; it’s more knowing that being persistent is socially okay. (Yes, this just shifts the question to why women need to be told this, but I hope that question will become irrelevant in time.)

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

• October 29th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 1