Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Being More Effective, The Writer's Plan

I have always been an incessant list maker. I think it must be because I have enjoyed crossing things off the list. I don't altogether know where this started, but it has been my experience for most of my life. I think the list can go either one of two ways when you write one down. The first way is the impossible list and the second is the “see I told you I got shit done” list.

With the first list, the impossible list, the tasks never seem to end. This list is a list of big chores that seem to mount up to a lifetime sentence of things to do. On this list: 1) write a novel, 2) find an agent, 3) procure the film rights, 4) pay off student loans. This list, I suspect, will be the constant reminder of what a failure the life of a writer truly can be.

On the second list, the list maker will add at least three or four items that are already completed: 1) clean house, 2) organize desk, 3) update computer software, 4) start writing novel. With this list, it's easy to get the first three items done and the fourth, well, we got three of the four done.

The real problem with both of these lists is that they are not productive and even less efficient. They are the lists of the procrastinator. And I'm afraid they may be the list of someone who really wants to do something, but for some reason cannot.

A list is one thing. A list, I hope, is a whole bunch of smaller, easily attainable tasks. With the above model of writing a novel, a list of the first day might be: 1) write down three possible novel plots and characters, 2) draw up a daily schedule for work, 3) free write for twenty minutes, 4) make a list for tomorrow.

However, more important than making a list may be developing a more involved writer's plan.

For me, I know that I'm at that stage where I need to focus on more than just the writing of something. I know this because I have spent the better part of thirty years simply writing. Recently, I decided to start counting the number of short stories and novels that I have written over the years. To me, the number was staggering. It was staggering only because I have never stopped writing. Sure, I have handful of short stories published and a couple of novels. The only reason why that's the case is because I stopped drafting new material long enough to focus on those tasks.

I hate those tasks. I love the rewrite, but I hate the 100th rewrite. The only thing I hate more than the 100th rewrite is the process of submitting a story or querying a publisher. It's the unknown, yes, it's the 99.99% rejection rate, it's the hassle of actually doing something. It's also the time involved. If I spend two hours today promoting my work and submitting stories, it's meaningless unless I do it for two hours tomorrow, and two hours the next and two hours the day after that. I may only get six hours this week to work, and I have always opted to write new material.

Logic intercedes. Why would I write a short story, or a novel for that matter, and not try to get it published? Writing short stories is a declaration of desire for publication in a magazine. There is, or should be no other reason than to see your story in print, if you are a writer of short stories.

Okay, so, the plan?

Simply said, after some soul searching, I decided that I wanted more publications, more CV enhancements and possible a job. I decided that my writer's should focus on networking, interaction with others, short story submissions (hopefully equaling publications) and bettering my professional development. Here's my list for 2017: 1) publication of fifty stories, 2) make another film, 3) publish another book, 4) get a teaching gig. This is a list. It does happen like that.

So, here's the writer's plan. I take all of those to do items, break them into smaller more easily attainable tasks, and here we go:

Submit short stories to magazines.
Read and research publications
Revise all work for submission
Don't fret the rejections (or further, try to get 50 rejections)
Upon publication, connect with editors and other contributors via LinkedIn, etc

Of the stories that get published, write a script
Solicit all friends and connections to make a film
If nothing more, you got published stories and written scripts

Publish another book
There are dozens of avenues for this, which is the best?

New Material:
Don't forget the new material
There are at least a dozen short stories I can write this year
Finish Coppertown. It's been in the works for years
Have fun writing, first drafts are always the most fun

Getting a job:
Get a teaching gig
Build the CV first. New publications, films, etc look good.
See if anyone on the connections list know something
Start applying, never mind the 99.99% rejection rate.

Of each of those items, a weekly, or monthly or quarterly to do list will seem easier. For instance, this week: 1) reshape LinkedIn profile, make 2 new connections, 2) read two articles, 3) submit 2 short stories, 4) make a list of possible places to apply for a teaching gig. – Now that's an attainable list.

Next time:

- Split the time up between activities: new material, submission of work, networking, etc.
- Understand that Youtube videos are short, until you watch 50 of them
- Break everything up in small easily attainable tasks

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