Guest Post: ‘Turning rejections into acceptances’ by Susie Kearley

Introducing freelance journalist and writer Susie Kearley who relays some insight and experience from her many successful years of writing articles.


Turning rejections into acceptances

Writing short pieces, like magazine articles or blogs, can hone your skills so when you’re writing books, you’re better at editing your own work and getting the tone right for the market.  When I started writing for magazines in 2011 it was a rocky road, littered with disappointment and rejection. But fortunately, with perseverance and determination, I’ve since sold well over 1000 articles to publishers across the globe. One thing I have learnt to do however, is master the art of turning rejections into opportunities, some of which have resulted in sales. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learnt.

Lesson 1: Give the editor what he or she wants

Take 3! The sound of eggs sizzling in the frying pan filled the air and James, the editor of Good Motoring magazine, asked: “What do you think of my breakfast this morning, Susie?”

He poked a microphone at my face and I garbled something incoherent about fry ups not being very nutritious. Porridge would be better.  

We were recording a podcast for the Good Motoring website, and the ‘cooking breakfast’ sounds were pre-recorded. I was nervous and didn’t like being unprepared. I wanted to write my answers down and read them back with confidence, but James whipped my notepad away saying he didn’t want it to sound staged. “No danger of that,” I thought.  

The interview was the outcome of a rejection letter. James had rejected my proposal to write about the hair-raising experience of being a learner motorcyclist on British roads, but said he was interested in other road safety ideas. So instead, I secured a commission to write about good nutrition to help drivers concentrate on the road – this podcast was part of the package.
“I don’t normally eat a full English breakfast,” said James, “but I thought it would give us more to talk about!” And so began the start of a beautiful working relationship – he has since bought my articles on speed cameras and motorcycle driving tests too.

What did I learn from this experience? To listen and learn from the feedback received. Look for opportunities that rejection letters reveal and then give the editor what he wants.

Lesson 2: Don’t write an essay!


One of my earliest customers was Paranormal magazine. The editor, Brian, didn’t offer firm commissions, but would tell me if he liked an idea. Then I’d submit a full article on spec for his consideration.

He was interested in an idea I’d pitched entitled ‘The Psychology of Fear’ so I trawled through my psychology degree books, writing up all things fear-related including conditions like panic attacks and their treatment. It was well researched but a bit academic, so I made an attempt to lighten it up and submitted it.

Brian rejected the piece saying it was ‘too clinical’. More suited to a psychology journal than a magazine about hauntings. I understood the problem and managed to find another buyer for some of the work: Leader magazine is an academic title published by the Association of Schools and Colleges. I used some of the ‘fear’ material in a feature on stress and it worked well because the body’s reactions to stress are very similar to fear.

Leader paid three times as much as Paranormal, and the sale resulted in commissions for a further two articles on the topics of nutrition and social media.

What I learnt: If you write something on spec which is rejected, think laterally about alternative markets for the piece, and consider whether parts of the article could be used to cover a different topic altogether. Rejected work can still form the basis of a good article for a different market, and that can lead to a profitable long-term relationship.

This is an extract from Freelance Writing on Health, Food and Gardens by Susie Kearley.

View the book here:

Susie Kearley is a British freelance writer and journalist, working for magazines, newspapers, and book publishers around the world. She has a collection of books on writing, and her debut novel ‘Pestilence’ is out now. You can view Susie’s Amazon author page here.


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Let’s talk about… writing – The First Draft…

Let’s talk about writing and specifically the process of writing that first draft.

Personally there is no full proof blue print to teach someone to write. You have to find that within yourself but I can sure as hell talk about it and hopefully pass on some ‘wisdom’ about the craft. If you tuned in to Twitter recently you may have seen my recent thread that 4 people probably read all about that first draft.

It’s easier and relatable to think of writing in a way that everyone can. So for this post, we are going to use the analogy of cooking to represent writing that first draft…

Drafting a book 101 – The Omelette Analogy

So, you’re hungry and it’s approaching lunchtime. You have a hankering for an omelette…

* Translation – you have an idea and want to write a book. 

For a while you’ve been thinking about what you want to put into this omelette and you have some ideas. Do you have the ingredients? Do you have long enough in your lunch break to pull it off? Is there is decent frying pan in the kitchen. Do you even have a kitchen?

* Translation – you have some story ideas that could link together to make an entire book, and you’re set on a genre. Do you have enough ideas to run the course of a book? Do you have the time in your schedule to dedicate to writing. This will need to be a regular time nearly everyday. Do you have a laptop or a working computer? Do you have a dedicated writing space – I wrote on my bed for 4 years, ask my back about it… 

You’ve got several eggs and various other ingredients (ideas) some you know work and others that don’t but you figure ‘what the hell, this art and I am an artiste’. You grab the frying pan (laptop or notepad), make some time and start cracking eggs. You set the heat to medium and begin to mix..

*Translation – you’ve answered most of the questions above and dive in! 

Even though you’ve never cooked an omelette of this kind in full, you are getting a feel for the process and are learning by doing. This is probably the way I found my chef’s voice (writing voice) by spending hours upon hours of cooking (typing).  

*Translation – you’ve probably dabbled in some kind of writing before. A short story here or essay there… 

You then omit some ingredients (story ideas) because there are too many things going on at once hence disrupting the overall flow of things (the story) and so now you pour the mix into the pan. Of course you haven’t greased the pan (know what you’re really doing yet) but go with it and set the heat lower..

*Translation – although things might not have fully formed, you see the potential in your own work – its important to encourage yourself in the early stages because this is solitary effort. Nobody is on the sidelines cheering you on, nobody probably knows or ever will appreciate the time you put in to get better and make a story better…

Things start to shape up pretty well and you grab a spatula to shape the omelette into what omelette’s look like (you’ve read books, lots of them and know what they look like…) although at this point you should be concentrating more on the eggs (story) really being cooked… (you may even go back a few pages and do some editing) 

You move to flip the omelette although it’s stuck to the bottom of the pan but you persevere and manage to flip the thing although it breaks up and is partially burnt. Basically one hot mess…

* Translation – you realise writing is hard, this is where most give up but you persevered no matter how ugly it looks and somehow you’ve dedicated the time to completing the first draft…

You take a bite and although you probably wouldn’t serve this up to anyone else, you like it, and you can see some potential. But a first draft is many things, telling yourself the story, the foundations or even the skeleton of a dream. 

For those who persevere with their dream they know things aren’t fully ‘right’ so they continue to go back and change a few things such as the heat level of the pan, what gets used to grease it, the quality of eggs and ingredients. Some of these can be worked on, but only the cook who wants to cook the omelette can do it on their own accord by carving their own path… 

And so I hope you are still with us and that analogy didn’t quite clog up the brain. Drafting a book is just the first step and I hope you can see what I did in comparing it with cooking. This is just like making an omelette and much like you need the tools to execute in the making, you’ll need the same for writing.

Thanks for reading…

Does your writing process compare to something relatable like cooking? 

 

Weekly Ramble #32

As an author do you want to know what’s worse than a one star review?

A one star rating with no review, words, explanation or even evidence said ‘reader’ has taken on your work. Not to mention the mindfu** it will give an author for a long time constituting to the round in circles question; why didn’t they like it?

One of my previous ramble post’s was half rant and half response to a one star review that had an actual explanation which I tried my best to debunk and move on from. This is different and it appears a particular book of mine keeps getting ‘pot shot’ with these random ratings (Open Evening) via Goodreads. In fact you can compare the reviews on Amazon (UK) to Goodreads to see the inconsistencies which just leaves me flapping my arms as to why?

I don’t want it to appear as if it’s getting to me, but it is, because we’re only human right? As authors we live and die by the currency that is reviews and as a reader if there was something I thought deserved a one star review I probably wouldn’t have finished reading it and then would have just moved on (and I have done that very recently). We’re all entitled to an opinion, that’s fine and I am not contesting that, what I am contesting is conduct towards writers. Leaving that one star might turn someone away from the craft forever.

Another huge factor is Open Evening like all my books was funded entirely by me including the sequel and the other book it is linked to Darke Blood; there is plans for further sequels but thoughts of that turn me away from it.

The question that remains in my head; Is Open Evening that bad? Does it justify someone swooping in to leave a one star rating and think nothing of the consequences? Maybe some like minded writer folks should swoop in and help an author in need…