Monday, November 21, 2011

Pursuit of Publication: The Time line

A brief rehash of what we've done during this project: 1) we took an inventory of our body of work. 2) We took stock in ourselves by making a personal statement and defining ourselves as writers. 3) We practiced the task of writing cover letters.

Now, we'll start thinking in terms of the time line. What is it that we want to achieve? Since this is the “Pursuit of Publication” portion, we'll assume that we want to publish. Why the time line? Well, this will quantify our efforts. I think having a time line is a great way to get things done. After all, if we had all the time in the world, eternity, what would be the incentive? The time line is not meant to rush things, it's just meant to help achieve the goal. Publication.

Only you know your work. Only you know what you have, and so only you will know what you can do.

During the inventory exercise, I found that I have approximately 30 short stories ready to send out. This is pretty impressive. With this kind of volume, I will probably not have to submit things simultaneously. This is good, because as an editor, I hate the added stress of a writer who has sent out one story to fifty places. I digress.

Next, what do I logically think I can do? Do I send a story a week? Do I send them all out at one time and hope for the best? What do I think? I prefer a lower intensity over a longer duration. I think it will probably be different for everyone.

So, I'm choosing a lower intensity and a longer duration. What is the duration? A year? That's about one short story submission every two weeks. This seems okay, after all, a two week period will give me ample time to research each publication and take great strides in editing and revising my story. This is the slow and steady wins the race tactic.

Completely arbitrarily, I'm going to pick an end date for this endeavor. My end time is August 31, 2012. Basically, nine months. That puts me at about one short story submission per week beginning in December. Now, I have a confine: I start today, and I end this project at the end of next August. As an aside here, the end date is not exactly arbitrary. I have other obligations in life, we all do. Between now and then, my life (barring any unforeseen circumstances) will remain essentially the same. I do plan to make a life change in August once my student loans are paid in full. The life change may or may not included such an active pursuit of publication and development of new material. Only time can tell. That said, I have my confine, and I urge you to do the same.

Now, we have a time line. We know that the beginning of the process takes preparation, which is what we've been doing these late weeks. Getting prepared, and having the time line established, we now face the task of developing our schedule and work habits.

Here it is:

1-we take our work and prepare it to share with a magazine editor.
2-we research, and I mean thoroughly, our potential magazines.
3-we follow the guidelines, write a cover letter and send out our work.
4-we spend time doing our record keeping.

Now, we know these are the things we need to do, but when do they get done? With family and financial obligations which we all have, we know there is a finite amount of time in the day. I think writers need a certain amount of time alone to get things done. After all, writing is solitary task. If we put all of our effort into life, when is the time for writing? And if we put all of our energy into this pursuit of publication, when do we have the time to generate new material? These are also things to think about.

My suggestion:
Set a work week for yourself. If you work nine to five, then your writing work week may be on Saturdays. Whenever you have the time for writing, this will now have to share your energy with this pursuit of publication. It's my belief that the generation of new material is more important than anything else. Work on your new material when you're still fresh. At the beginning of your session, focus on the new. When you tire a little, and your energy is lowering, this is a good time to do the research, do a little copy editing and letter writing. It takes less energy to read a few good short stories than it does to write them.

For me, I generally get a solid three hours a day, everyday, to write. I'm lucky. I generally plan my whole week on Sunday night when I get my schedule from work. When I consider my new material, I set goals with how much I want to get done. I try to write 5-10 thousand words a week. I write early in the day before I go to work, or before I start to think about the maintenance of life. I write before I check the email, read the paper or leave the house. I know what I want to get done, and I know how long it takes.

Keeping in mind that the new material is important, when is it appropriate to start other tasks? I don't know. But I know there are “other” hours in the day. How about the late night hours when I get off work and go to the bar? I don't want to write that late at night because I'm tired, but I can certainly read at that hour. This is an example of the “other” hours. Should I read a magazine before bed rather than drinking beer, I haven't sacrificed my precious writing hours. And I know that we all have these “other” hours.

At the beginning of the week plan for everything including time for research, letter writing and submissions.

Your task this week:
1-Pick a time line
2-Draw up a proposed weekly schedule for yourself
3-Find those “other” hours when you could be doing your research
4-Write down your goals

Good luck.
Next time: The daily and weekly schedules.

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