Writing Tools: Keeping Records


I had a phone call this week – which happens remarkably seldom in this age of emails.

It was from a writer. A well established but now seriously embarrassed writer. Why? Well, Writer sent me a story back in July. As usual it took around 12 weeks to filter through our reading process, but it came out smiling. I was delighted to email Writer with the happy news that I wanted to buy it.

And that’s when Writer got that horrible prickle at the back of the neck. Because it was only then that she realised what she’d done. She’d sent the same story to another magazine at the same time, and they had bought it.

Actually, what was a little galling from my perspective was that she had sent it to us first, but you snooze you lose, as they say. It was a great story and we hadn’t bought it quickly enough.

I must stress that she hadn’t done it deliberately; it was a genuine error. The fault lay in her record-keeping, which had lapsed in this instance.

The importance of keeping records

I’m mentioning this not to make a point to Writer, but to emphasise the point to everyone else that keeping accurate records is essential. You need to know what you’ve sent where and when.

For one thing, it saves those embarrassing phone calls. But also, it wasted some of our time. Perhaps we’d not look so favourably on the writer the next time they submitted a story? (Of course we wouldn’t, but others might not be so lenient.)

Afterall, the story had gone through our vetting process; I read that story, passed it over to Angela for final approval. I emailed the Writer, completed the paperwork for the purchase, handed it over to Admin, Admin had entered it on our payments system – and then had to extract it when the story was withdrawn.

That time spent on a story had resulted in nil content. That’s time that could have been spent on a story that would result in content. And that’s our primary job, remember: sourcing the best possible content for the “Friend”.

How to keep records

So, the practical aspect of keeping records is just as important as the creative aspect of crafting your stories and sending them out. Most publishers work on a time system that is clearly outlined in their submission guidelines.

Make sure you read up and make notes. You can get an online calendar set up, or simply mark the dates in a good old-fashioned paper diary.

At the “Friend” we want you to have fun in your career as a writer, so nail the basics and you’re on your way!

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Shirley Blair

Fiction Ed Shirley’s been with the “Friend” since 2007 and calls it her dream job because she gets to read fiction all day every day. Hobbies? Well, that would be reading! She also enjoys writing fiction when she has time, long walks, travel, and watching Scandi thrillers on TV.

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