editors, rejections, and becoming blog-savvy: the first four months of freelance writing

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Here’s a Q&A to update on how my writing plunge is going. (I prefer the word ‘plunge’ to ‘career’, because that’s how it feels. And I feel ‘career’ really needs to have stuff backing it up, like…oh, I don’t know…a salary perhaps?)

If you’ve landed on this site without knowing me, and couldn’t give tuppence about what I’m up to – well, you’re every bit as welcome. I hope you find something interesting or encouraging here.

When and how do you write?

Writing mainly happens when my youngest boys are in preschool – Monday all-day and Wednesday afternoons. (They also go Tuesday mornings, when I co-teach Suzuki early years classes.) I write some evenings as well.

Typically, I curl up on the sofa with my laptop, and type away. I’d write all day if I could, but realistically there are usually a few jobs which can’t be postponed till the evening. I might write for a couple of hours, then take a break from the screen to do something else, then write again for the afternoon.

I absolutely LOVE writing! I didn’t realise quite how much until I started spending a whole day doing it. Last Monday it was 2.50pm before I looked up and thought about lunch – given that my older kids need collecting at 3 o’clock, this didn’t give me a lot of time, and was a good lesson in self-care!

What are you actually doing?

There’s the stuff you can read, the ‘visible’ part of my work.

For example, I’ve been updating this blog more regularly (check out my post on being a feminist SAHM, or this on blending adopted and birth kids), writing for Home for Good (e.g. what the church needs to know about trauma and the inspiring story of a foster care leaver), promoting my friend’s wonderful bistro, starting a HuffPost blog, and gaining a monthly slot on the Association of Christian Writers (ACW) blog.

I also wrote a guest post for one of my favourite blogs (the largest Christian marriage blog in the world, no less!) on what to do when you and your partner disagree about how to parent your kids!

That’s quite a bit, put like that.

But there’s also lots of stuff you don’t see. Articles I write, edit and re-edit for hours – only to have them rejected. Emails back and forth between editors, publishers and illustrators. Online networking with other writers. Working on book projects which you won’t see until next year.

For the blog, I’ve been learning how to create better graphics. Joining affiliate programs to earn commission when readers buy books I recommend. Setting up a mailing list to communicate more reliably with readers. (I’d love you to sign up if you haven’t already!)

What are the challenges?

Until very recently, I found it extremely difficult to organise my different writing projects. At one point, I counted nine different places I was writing for – that’s quite a lot!

I didn’t know whether to prioritise the paid work, the book proposal (knowing that a response might take three months) or the guest post (knowing I might pick up new readers). Working for myself means I have no line manager to guide my workload.

Now, four months in, there are some very clear openings, and it’s these which are the recipients of my energy. The doors which have closed are projects I’m laying aside for the moment – not forever, as some of them may open in the future, but for now. It’s been painful, as some of it I would dearly love to do right away, but I need to trust God’s timing.

Anything else that’s been hard?

January’s optimism gave way to February’s despair. I received some rejections, was overawed at the writing ability of those around me, and started to doubt whether I could offer anything at all.

The quote at the top of this blog post sums it up perfectly, though – yes, I’m scared to death, but am clinging to a very strong sense from God that this is what I should be doing right now. That makes it a lot easier, and gives me peace when I start to doubt.

It has been refreshing to discover that even Jen Hatmaker, one of my favourite Christian writers, has had periods of self-doubt, looking around her at the work of other writers, and despairing of her own ability. I think Jen is one of the funniest, quirkiest, most passionate and radical writers around!

God’s been teaching me that I’m not supposed to be the next Jen Hatmaker or Michele Guinness. He has a role just for me, and I’m enjoying the journey of discovering what that is.

And what do you think it is?

At this stage, the doors which are opening are:

  • Home for Good – I’ve had seven pieces published here now, and feel like I’m really getting into the swing of it.
  • Books – I have a small publisher ready and willing to work with me on my children’s book (more later!), but I’m also exploring working with a larger publisher, which would give a larger budget for illustration.
  • I also have a different publisher keen to publish last year’s Random Advent devotional as a real-life book – hooray! It won’t be out till 2019, but the re-writing and editing needs doing this year.
  • Blog – I’m so grateful to you all for reading, and as long as you’re still enjoying it, I’ll keep writing! I’m looking into how I can build my subscriber list, monetise where possible (e.g. earning commission – at no cost to you of course, lovely readers!), and offer online courses or e-books, while maintaining the integrity of Desertmum and not becoming sales-y or annoying.

I know I say this all the time, but I am SO GRATEFUL to you all for reading, liking and sharing my blog. Your comments buoy me up when I’m feeling incapable of doing any of this – thank you!

Egg-hunts, trying to be holy, and the Post-Modern Jukebox (What I’m into – March 2018)

Books

I finished The Suspicions of Mr Whicher (whicher (get it?) was highly absorbing, if a little slow-moving in the middle).

And then I spent a very enjoyable time with The Diary of a (Trying to be Holy) Mum. I won’t tell you how brilliant it is, because I’ve reviewed it here (and there are TWO copies to be won…comment on the post by Wednesday to be in with a chance!).

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Food

So I know there was food this month, but I didn’t really notice any of it, as I was pining too much for my first love. February’s optimism turned into March’s struggle. I tried everything to replace it: crisps, liquorice allsorts, fresh scones with clotted cream – but there’s no denying that I felt entirely lost without chocolate.

Will someone tell me what’s so infinitely better about chocolate than other sweet treats? I can’t put my finger on it – but nothing else tastes as good. 😦

Music

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A friend and I went to see the Post-Modern Jukebox, and they were all kinds of awesome. In fact, I already think they’ll be my top gig of 2018 – they would take a lot to beat. Fabulous musicians, singers…not to mention the incredible tap-dancer, who made me regret quitting tap lessons all those years ago! Who knew tap could be so cool.

I really hope they come to the UK again soon, as I know my older two kids would love the show. The arrangements are fabulous: contemporary pop songs, re-styled in vintage 20th-century genres. One of my favourites is their Motown version of Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Since U Been Gone‘ – have a watch/listen!

Articles

One of the very best and easiest family decisions you can ever make, by Sarah Mackenzie for Ann Voskamp’s blog, was beautiful and inspiring – and I recommend it to all those with children in their lives.

I laughed out loud and nodded in agreement with this brilliantly dry piece from a Dad, on all the things he can’t do because he only has daughters.

She would be better off dead is a poignant and inspiring read, on why Christians need to move towards disability.

Last but not least, I found this blog post incredibly powerful: God is taking everything away from me, on Vicki Cottingham’s response to being diagnosed with M.E. The post is a few years old, but I recently ‘met’ Vicki online through Christian writers’ forums, and so have been made aware of her fantastic blog.

On the blog

I asked whether we should avoid Mothers’ Day just because it’s hard, and (when my husband went away for a few days) wondered if I could make it as a single parent. When my son asked a tricky question, I gave him this answer on the definition of ‘brother’.

I shared some prophetic words which I received recently, asking whether we can really trust them, and I reviewed Fiona Lloyd’s brilliant book – offering a giveaway which you can still enter!

Elsewhere

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Photo credit: Home for Good

It was a joy and a privilege to be able to write up the story of how four inspiring York families have opened their homes to Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children – you can read it on the Home for Good website.

If you’re interested, do read the stories of the individuals mentioned in the above article (I wrote these too!): Jen, Clare, Sandra and Lynn are incredibly inspiring.

In other news:

* I’ve joined the Association of Christian Writers (ACW) and attended my first Writers’ Day. It was brilliant: jam-packed full of practical, useful info about writing for magazines, led by an editor and journalist. I enjoyed meeting a few people who I’d started interacting with online, too – always good to put a 3D figure to a 2D Facebook profile pic 😉

* When I blogged about single-parentdom, what I didn’t say was that the hubs was away three times this month – very unusual, as he’s not often called out of town. I was surviving the middle of these trips when I blogged. No wonder I’ve reached the end of March exhausted!

* We’ve enjoyed the first week of our school holidays (which are different to just about everyone else’s holidays). After two years, I can finally take all four kiddoes out on a day trip without the need for a Supporting Grown-Up, and it feels amazing! They can all walk! They can help each other out in the soft play! When they’re near a road and I call ‘STOP!!!’ they sometimes listen! Yay!

* As part of the above, we may have *slightly* overdone it, with six egg hunts completed at various venues this week. And there will be more to come. I’m a sucker for an egg hunt.

* And last but not least…I’ve set up a real proper newsletter thingy! In addition to the blog emails (where you receive an email whenever I post), this is more of a summary email every few weeks, where I’ll link to blog posts and other articles I’ve written which might be of interest, as well as give you an update on how my writing is going generally. And you’ll be the first to hear of any books in the pipeline! If you haven’t already, please sign up here – I’ll be eternally grateful to have your support! I promise to keep the emails short and not to spam you!

Linking up as always with Leigh Kramer’s blog. Take a look at some of the other ‘What I’m into’ posts – maybe you’ll find a new favourite blog! (Or second favourite. Humph.)