Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pursuit of Publication: Part one, the Inventory

We've spent a great deal of time over these last several months talking about reading and writing. We talked about the writing of the short story, the writing of the screenplay and the writing of the novel. I have spent countless hours ranting and raving about the life of the writer. I have urged all of you, not to mention myself, to simply go out there and write. And there it is. Just go out there and write. Now what? Good question.

I suppose for the most part, I can describe myself simply enough. I have lived in some of the world's greatest towns, and I have been living life all the while. I have been blessed, but that might be another story for another time. That said, I have been in this writer's process for nearly thirty years; twenty years of it fairly seriously. For the last three years I've been fanatical about writing, and this was on the heels of a few good years on the academic path. Perhaps this is the place to start.

We've talked about grad school before. It may or may not be for you. I don't think grad school manufactures writers. Rather, I think a writer in grad school learns how to work, and that's a pretty difficult task. As for me, I think the best part about grad school was simply the time it took for me to figure it all out. Yes, I enjoyed my advisers and my peers. I also enjoyed many of the working writers and professionals I got to meet.

I'm fairly certain I've mentioned Betsy Lerner before. She came to Goddard College on hot July day and addressed a room full of students on the ways of the literary agent. She came prepared with useful handouts, witty anecdotes and good advice. But there was one thing she said that I have taken with me and considered every moment of everyday since that afternoon in July.

The workshop discussion was that of fiction manuscripts. Novels and writers and agents and it was a interesting topic for me. After all, here I was in grad school with ample time to write. Betsy Lerner suggested that each of us turn our process up a little. Turn it up. Rather than having one manuscript ready for publication, her suggestion was to have five.

Well, time moves on. So, where does that leave us?

If you've been following me during the last year and a half, I would think you know where I am right now. Yes, so much of what I have here is reading, writing and the teaching of writing. But how much do we know about the pursuit of publication?

At this stage, I am going to assume that everyone out there is in the same place I am. Yes, so much of writing is the act of writing, but a larger, and I daresay more time consuming, is the work of getting the thing published.

I've asked myself over the last several months, how do I begin this daunting task? Where do I start? If you're anything like me, you'll be asking this question too.

First thing first. This week, take a complete inventory of everything you have written no matter what shape it's in. We're going to centralize out effort on this inventory. When I consider that I've had eight computers in the last fifteen years, I have written in composition notebooks and I have papers all over the place, this first step will take a vast amount of time. Yet, it is important, if we have only a dozen short stories, we may not be ready to pursue a serious amount of time seeking publication. However, if you are like me, we'll have ample to work with, form and send away.

The list of information needed for each piece:
1 the title
2 its location
3 word and page count
4 what type of piece is it (play, short story, novel, poetry)
5 one or two sentences describing the piece

Let's look at the inventory aspects: what were doing is locating something, reading it, analyzing it and defining it. This will be helpful very soon as we start writing letters and sending our work out.

You can use an excel spreadsheet, an index card or simply a list on a lined piece of notebook paper. Just formalize the system.

As always, good luck and happy inventory.

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