Wednesday 19 June 2013

Story Seeds / Writing Tips # 16 - Writing Within Editorial Guidelines - Robyn stories

The Seed:  Dear Hazel Hutchins,  We have a project which we hope might interest you. Attached please find a list of guidelines...

illustrations Yvonne Cathcart
The Books:  Robyn Series, Formac Publishing, 1997-2012

The Writing Tip: It was so nice to be at a point in my career where publishers had begun to approach me for material. But why did I now find myself hesitating?  Hadn't my rule always been  when the door opens a crack, jump in with both feet?  And what about the time I had lied outright, telling an editor "Yes!" when asked if a short story was part of a series...and then had needed to quickly write four more stories before my subterfuge was discovered? Where was that old "can do" spirit?

     The difference was a feeling of restriction. There is enormous freedom when one is working on one's own ideas.  Would I be able to bring the same kind of energy to this type of project?
     I did take on the challenge and (after a false start or two) I became totally comfortable with, and delighted by,  the "Robyn" character I was able to create while still writing within the guidelines. So many of the things Robyn does in the stories are variations of the embarrassing things that happened to me in grade three. I was indeed able to put my own personality into the work - hurrah! 
     Since then, I've accepted many other such offers as well.   Here are my suggestions for taking on projects of this sort
       - read all the guidelines carefully and make sure you are comfortable with them. They will almost always include length, point of view, genre, form, audience level and subject matter. There will likely be no chance to negotiate these points so if you aren't comfortable you need to back out now.     
        - be realistic in considering how long it will take you to write the piece.  Can you meet the deadline? Will it take time away from your favourite writing project, the one you really want to be working on? Or have you just finished a major project and would welcome a chance to  turn your pen in a slightly different direction?   
          - what might you gain (besides payment) from working on the piece?  Will there be some research involved that would be of particular interest to you and might lead to a different story of your own? Will the project help widen your audience as readers of this story possibly seek out more of your work? What about a back up plan -- if the publisher needs to withdraw from the project for some unforeseen reason, can you see some way in which the idea might be rewritten into a story that would have a decent chance of being sold on the open market? 
         -  most important of all, will you enjoy working on it and be proud of the finished product.

     Once you have committed, of course, always deliver your best writing.  Go on - jump in with both feet!

(c) All Rights Reserved. All blog text(except comments by others) copyright Hazel Hutchins.

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