I had an interesting question from a reader recently – possibly the million dollar question! Denise, a playwright and short story writer, got in touch to ask how she can get to the next level with her writing. I’m going to share an edited version of her question here, as well as my answer. Later in my post, I’ll talk about how I can help if you too are trying to get to the next level.
Thanks for the mail and the warm welcome. I have already found your advice very useful. In my writing, I’m struggling with taking the next step.
I’ve written quite a few plays and short stories and I’m keen to get them out to the world. Overall, I’ve written a lot, studied a great deal about how to improve my work and taken advice about how to get it out there. I’m making plenty of time for writing and I’m very motivated to keep going, even knowing that it will take serious persistence and a great many rejections before I get a yes.
Several of my plays have been performed through a theatre company that I founded with some actor friends. I’m proud to say that we were going from strength to strength before corona hit. I frequently enter the plays into competitions of various sorts and I’ve sent speculative proposals to small and large theatre companies. One of my plays was accepted to a Fringe festival, due to play in May 2020 but has been pushed back to May 2021. One of my shorts also featured in an International Theatre Festival in my home city.
In an ideal world…
I’d like to see my work performed by amateur, semi-professional and professional groups in the UK and Ireland. I’d like to build up my reputation to feel confident to apply for paid positions with other theatre groups to work with them on developing projects. In an absolutely ideal world, they would approach me! It would be lovely to see my scripts published too. I currently spend about 20% of my working time on creative writing. If there were any money in it at all I could justify spending more time on it.
I get feedback from a few other writers and I’m considering engaging a professional editor to get more feedback to improve my scripts. The question you may be able to help me with then is this:
If you’re beyond the novice stage, you’ve carved out time, found motivation and inspiration, written a lot, done your homework and asked others for feedback, but you have yet to be published in a relevant august outlet/have your work performed, what should you be doing and who can you talk to for help and support?
Thanks so much for getting in touch and sharing your story. I’d like to start by saying congratulations for everything you’ve achieved so far. You’re doing great and are definitely on the right track. Sometimes – probably more often than not – it takes longer than we hope and expect to get where we would like to be.
Asking for advice, as you’re doing here for example, is a great thing to do as well. Sometimes we need to take a step back and ask, what could I be doing differently? Or, what else could I do to help things along?
Putting your work on yourself through your own theatre company is a brilliant idea, as you are actively raising your profile. So do keep that up, as and when you can safely do so. And spread the word as far and wide as you can, whenever your plays are on.
Getting feedback is always essential, especially if you have any doubts about your work. Often, getting feedback from other writers is enough, if they’re at a similar level to you and you respect their opinion. Getting professional feedback, as you suggest, is another option, if the writers in your network aren’t giving you enough useful feedback.
What else can you try?
I would ask you to consider this: are you doing enough marketing – both of yourself and of your work? When we’re at that stage when we have work to ‘sell’, we should be spending 50% of our time on marketing and 50% on writing. And by the way, I’m not assuming that you’re writing full time, I just mean, 50% of the time you would normally put into writing, should now go towards marketing. It sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Often, we writers are much happier writing, creating, day dreaming. But working on the business side of things is much less appealing.
Another question – Is there anything in your marketing that you’re not doing? You might not want to admit this even to yourself – but is there something you’re avoiding doing? To be successful we have to really put ourselves out there, even when it makes us cringe or feel like a fraud. Sometimes, there are certain things we know, at the back of our minds, that we should be doing but nevertheless, we keep putting it off. Give this some thought.
As well as sending your work to competitions and theatre companies, make sure you simply network. This can be done online, e.g. through Linkedin, Twitter or other online networks. And it can also be done in person, for example at festivals, when they start up again.
Getting to the Next Level!
One of the best ways to get to the next level is to make personal contacts. It’s human nature that people are far more likely to choose work from someone they already know, like and trust. So find as many ways as you can to get to know people in your industry. Make friends! You need lots of connections to find the few who will eventually help. One of the best ways to do this is to start with people who are just a step or two above you on the ladder.
Forge relationships with people you admire, who are making work (or aspiring to make work) that strikes a chord with you (and is hopefully not too dissimilar to your own work). Make sure they are go-getters – that you genuinely believe, if you were to work together, that they could make it happen.
Ask for help!
I’m not talking massive favours here. Perhaps just ask for advice. Be friendly, charming and complementary and if you’re lucky, someone will take you under their wing. This could be someone running a small theatre company, who perhaps runs a writers’ scheme on the side. The next thing you know, they might be making introductions on your behalf.
Those are my tips in the first instance. But keep writing, persisting and networking, because it sounds like you’re doing great! And do please keep me posted with your progress.
Can I help you?
Readers, I hope you’ve found this question & answer useful. If it’s struck a chord, I might be able to help…
As a coach, I don’t just support you on your writing journey, I can also help you develop your career strategy. If you’ve been procrastinating about this, you might find my accountability helpful. I can also work with you on your blocks. Some of us experience terrible blocks when it comes to bigging ourselves up and sending our work out into the big wide world. If that’s you, don’t let this hold you back – let me help you take control!
How it works
My coaching takes place via Skype or Zoom. Depending on the programme you choose, we will normally have a call every week or two. Through a series of questions, we explore what issues you’re facing, and I suggest strategies to help you overcome them. Together we come up with a plan to ensure you meet whatever goal you set. And it’s usually a lot of fun because you’re working towards your dream!
If you’re intrigued by the sound of coaching, but want to know more, drop me a line and we’ll set up a brief complimentary call. I can answer any questions you may have, and we can discuss where you are with your writing and see if my coaching might be a good fit. You can also find out more about my three coaching programmes here, here and here.
Quick heads up, due to my own writing commitments, I’m only able to work with a limited number of clients. So don’t hang about in case I get booked up.
If you’re struggling with an aspect of your writing, let me know because I’d love to work with you.
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By the way, if you want to know more about networking, check out my previous article here.