2020: A Unique Year
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that 2020 has been a tumultuous year. Here in the United States, we’ve had the world’s worst outbreak of COVID-19, a major economic downturn that has left nearly 50 percent of Americans unemployed, and a national reckoning on race relations after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. And we’re only six months into the year…
Still, even with all that’s going on in the world, as writers we must continue to write and we must also continue to do whatever we can to advance our writing careers.
Shawn Hudson and Just Us
For years, I’ve been sharing my advice on the finer points of the literary game with my friend Shawn Hudson. Shawn and I first met when I was the faculty advisor to Monroe College’s Poetry Club back in 2013. Shawn’s raw, gritty poetic style caught my attention. When I first heard his poem Project Windows, I knew he was a formidable talent. Despite the fact that I left Monroe shortly after we met, Shawn and I never lost touch.
Not all writers have a core ethos to why they write, but Shawn definitely does. He seeks to use his writing as a springboard to expose some of the hardships the Black and LGBTQ communities face in the United States and work to overcome these barriers to true equality and justice. To those ends, Shawn penned an excellent novel, Just Us, which centers on a fictional corrupt police department. Shawn later adapted Just Us into a screenplay.
The last time Shawn and I spoke, I told him now is the time for him to go full blast on pitching his screenplay. With Hollywood now giving serious attention to working with talent from underrepresented communities and with the Black Lives Matter movement informing the public on the often deadly outcomes faced by unarmed Black people stopped by police, now is Shawn’s best opportunity to get his screenplay considered by major studios.
That’s not to say that if things go back to “normal,” Shawn doesn’t have a chance to sell his screenplay. Of course that’s a possibility. But why not take opportunities as they present themselves? After all, selling your screenplay is not an easy task.
How Applicable Is This Advice To Me?
OK, that’s all well and good, but what if my writing doesn’t tackle issues of racial justice? What if I don’t write screenplays? What if I’m just a novelist? Does this still apply to me?
If you’re a novelist who wrote a book about a pandemic, go ahead and pitch agents now!
If you’re a short story writer who wrote a piece of historical fiction about the Great Depression, go ahead and pitch the most competitive literary magazines now!
If you’re a poet who wrote a chapbook of poems about invasions from outer space…well, let’s see what the next six months have in store!
A Simple 3-Step Process
OK, now how can I turn this theoretical knowledge into a practical approach? It’s simple. Just follow these three steps:
- Pay attention to the news. If you haven’t already made a habit of following the news, do it.
- Find a link between current events and your writing. As you’re reading your favorite periodical or watching your favorite newscast, jot down some notes if anything you read or see is relevant to your previously unpublished/unsold material.
- Pitch pitch pitch! Once you’ve identified a link between your writing and something in the news cycle, pitch appropriate venues. As an extra tip, approach publishers or studios that have an explicit interest in this topic as part of their core identity or who have put out similar material in the past.
If you haven’t yet been able to advance your literary career yet, you might just need to wait until the news cycle catches up with your dusty manuscript or screenplay. Once it does, seize that opportunity!
Do you have any questions about how to apply this approach or any other topic related to the literary game? Shoot me an email and I’ll do my best to help you.
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