Writing Slingshot Theory diagram demonstration

Have a look at this diagram and try to work out why promoting your writing can be a bit like the slingshot theory from astrophysics. What do each of the rings represent?

I’ve really enjoyed the many weekly Creative Writing courses I’ve been running for adults across Birmingham over the last year, and for the summer ones I was asked to run something a little bit special…

My classes have been utterly mixed between learners of totally different levels, interests, backgrounds and personal circumstances, and after a few terms of introducing them to some central concepts of writing in an accessible way, I decided that Getting Published and Produced was a subject that would be useful, challenging and relevant to all of my learners, whatever they most liked to write. So after running this subject in 3 courses of seven 2-hour classes to very diverse groups, I’ve found that I’ve got many suggestions worth sharing here. (After a decade of professional writing and attending about a hundred industry events, as well as brushing up on leading guides to writing and screenwriting, it’s amazing how much there is to pass on about the pleasures and obsequies of the writing industry.) So here is a short sample…

 

Do your homework before you submit – and be honest with yourself

Mood board for client's film pitch which I designed and compiled in June 2013.

Mood board for client’s film pitch which I designed and compiled in June 2013.

Before you approach anyone or submit to anything, do your research to find out whether they’re genuinely looking to hear from someone like you, and whether your piece fits their specifications – whether those have been explicitly spelled out or not. Producers and publishers are people too; they may be sitting in the role of ‘gatekeeper’ from your point of view, but they need to be treated as the individual human beings they are. You’ll need to cultivate meaningful, reciprocal relationships with them. If you take them for granted and don’t respect them and their individual interests, careers and aspirations, then whatever you submit will probably be inappropriate for them anyway.

Good sources of information include the websites of the people you’re considering, and industry guides like the Writers’ Handbook and the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook. Always click on the ‘FAQ’ or ‘Submissions’ page if there is one. It’s worth taking at least half an hour getting to know any organisation or individual you’re considering, before you try contacting them. Desperation, or arrogance, usually show…

 

Aim high, Use Allies, DIY

Still from The Mourning After. Props provided by actress Hayleigh Power.

Still from The Mourning After. Props provided by actress Hayleigh Power.

Whatever you’re promoting, you need to consciously choose which of these three options will be the best for you.

  • To Aim High – approach influential movers and shakers who could promote or produce your work at the highest levels. Try to inspire them with your potential and your work, so that they can become champions for you – and can get you the attention of the industry. This is ambitious, but in the age of social media, influential people are easier to reach than ever before. So, find out how they would prefer you to get in touch (if at all), contact them in ways that they will be happy with, and don’t push your luck.
  • To Use Allies – forge meaningful, real and reciprocal relationships with people with industry connections who are interested in you and your work. These should be equal relationships – both of you should enjoy the relationship and get something out of it. Networking is the best way to make these connections – that might sound scary, but it’s really just about your people skills. It doesn’t have to be difficult, to chat about work with someone who shares your passion – you probably already do this all your time with people who don’t share your passion, in your personal life! But you need to come into these discussions without an agenda – if you’re only there to use people and advance yourself, you won’t be making any allies. Be nice, be interested, be interesting, be supportive, and be appreciative. Make friends!
  • To DIY – take personal initiative to produce, publish, promote and distribute your work yourself using major platforms which your audience use. Technology has broken down almost all of the previous barriers that used to stand between ordinary people and getting published or produced – you really can Do It Yourself. All of it. And, to rise up, gain momentum and allies, for a while you’ll probably need to. Different ways to DIY include self-publishing your books or stories, self-producing your scripts or readings, blogging on your own website (like this and the many I’ve set up for other writers and creatives). Take the time to train yourself in what it takes to do those things properly, deliver works to a standard that’s both achievable and as time-efficient as possible, build up a following on social media and in your local and national networks, and start to build momentum! Keep modest but not self-defeating, and follow the adage: don’t get it perfect, get it done…

And, on the subject of building up momentum…

 

Why promoting your writing is like the ‘slingshot effect’ from astrophysics

What do you think these rings and arrows represent?

What do you think these rings and arrows represent?

Slingshot effect has enabled human probes to reach the deepest reaches of the solar system, and beyond. Any object can gain both a new direction and a greatly increased speed and momentum just from passing close to other objects and bodies, if they approach the right bodies from the right angle at the right pace: they use the gravity and rotation of those bodies to ‘slingshot’ onwards.

This hand-drawn diagram (right) shows you what I mean. The top one of these rings is you. So, what goes on the other rings of the diagram? When you’ve had a think about it and you’ve got some ideas, click here to see the full diagram (this will open in a new window or tab on your browser).

Note that, whatever you’re doing, you’re looking for the momentum to come right back to you and your own writing: because, at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about: you don’t want to be thrown off on a different course altogether. Work on your craft and on yourself as a person (the inner circle), as you send things out and try to build and maintain a momentum. That momentum can come back to you in unexpected ways and shoot off in new directions. Keep going and don’t get disheartened. You can’t gain momentum by half-hearted, occasional, throwaway efforts – it comes from keeping the energy and working your way towards critical mass (another concept I’ve borrowed from physics).

And finally…

Still from my short film The Mourning After (2013)

Still from my short film The Mourning After (2013)

I’ll be happy to provide this course again and again – or any parts of it – wherever it’s appreciated: so if you think you could benefit from it, email me at ian@iqkennedy.co.uk.

As I write this, my latest published piece of writing was invited by someone who I’d already worked with for three years at the Producers’ Forum, while we were having lunch together, on my last day in that role. In other words, it came from an Ally. Pictures soon.

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