This post over at Aaron's blog got me thinking.
On my sporadically updated website I list my goals and occasionally go over and update them. These don't vary during the year so I can try and keep some sort of coherent direction in what I'm attempting to do.
I do this because I once-upon-a-time changed my goals on a whim more often than a streetwalker would change underwear.
But I think Aaron has hit the nail on the head with the patience call. In this day and age, we are all used to things zipping by at break neck speed. Instant gratification. Short term gains. I sit down and write something; in hours (sometimes days) it's winging its way across the world to my beta readers. Soon after that it's hitting the markets. And then nothing for weeks - sometimes months.
It's taken me two and a half years to get to the point where I can send and forget. It's taken me this long to be able to NOT stress about writing if I don't get a chance to do as much as I'd like, but I'm still trying to pack in as much activity related to writing as humanly possible each and every day.
Example: This week I have one major goal. I need to create a six page script. I should be able to put everything else aside and just concentrate on this one thing. Shouldn't be too difficult.
I would also like to read an issue or two of Necrotic Tissue's back catalogue. I would also like to write a chapter or two in AKL. I'd like to do some background work on my YA series idea. I'd like to expand on one or two short story ideas I have. I need to update the market lists on AHWA. I should probably look at the next assignment for the other module in my diploma.
Apart from the writing, I also have to finish off a bathroom renovation. Get a project off the ground in my normal full time day job. Take my boy for a driving lesson (or two). Spend some quality time with my wife and daughter. Get some Mother's Day shopping done.
All of this will be bang, bang, bang - one thing after the other in a controlled type of chaos. Normal. And the pay off will be instant.
On finishing the six page script, I'll submit it to the lecturer and she'll return a mark within a day or two. When an issue of NT has been read - well, it's been read, digested, and hopefully I've gained something from it. Any additions to AKL moves me toward completing the first draft. Any work on the YA series will help that come to fruition. AHWA market updates are done as soon as they are done - until next month.
Once the bathroom is completed - I won't have to worry about it again. Shopping results in presents. The boy will become a better driver, my wife and daughter will be happier if I spend some time with them. See - everything has an instant pay off.
But with sending a finished piece of written work off into the ether, it's not instant. It's not even fairly quick. It's like this huge pause in the process.
I currently have a couple of pieces which have been out for months. One which has been out for over a year. I dare not open the work and have a look at it because I know I'll want to make changes. A story is never finished. A writer will always see areas where it can be improved, but why should I? If it sells, then it was right for that market at that time. If it gets rejected, then I'll worry about it. But in between, there's nothing, while all the time, we continue to try and move forward to the over all goal of getting a book contract.
We need patience to move forward slowly, honing the craft, practising, learning, finding our voice, toughening our skin, waiting for acceptances and rejections - while rushing to improve enough every day, by cramming in as much writing related activity as possible, to finally get to that ideal of working as a published author. The two states are opposed to each other.
The ideal is for a writer to produce a manuscript, have it represented by an agent, sold to a publisher and asked to provide more on a consistent basis for an agreed sum of money which will allow the writer to live in a comfortable manner and have time to produce the additional manuscripts. Yes there are different ways of getting to the published goal, but I’m a traditionalist. I want to see my work in print before everything goes electronic.
Once the contract is in place, then everything changes and becomes more focused.
Without the contract, everything is on spec, and life as a writer is up in the air. You have no professional support, no focus. Only a calling to drive you forward.
It's with little wonder then, that writers’ lose patience, wonder why agents and editors take forever responding, beat their fists against published work which seems less than well written, shake their head in wonder at huge book deals given to celebrities, and sigh in frustration at the continual state of flux the market place seems to be in.
I think there is only one solution to this issue.
Patience needs to be taken out of the equation as soon as possible in our learning to become a writer.
We need to become completely detached in our writing process once the work has been submitted.
And then we need to develop amnesia to each piece we send out the door.
Until we gain that holy grail of a publishing contract, we also need to give ourselves a break. Many people say we need to write 2000 words a day, every day, ad infinitum… Many make it feel like a writer must be a starving and emotionally drained individual to be able to draw from a deep well and produce amazing work.
None of this is true.
Most writers pen many manuscripts, short stories and countless unfinished tales before they gain regular publication in any form. Most do this over many years. A writer is not a vocation, it’s a way of life.
So how do we fix the patience issue?
My first piece of advice would be to ignore the stories of how other writers got their deal. Everyone’s journey is different.
Take the time to write when you can, when you feel comfortable, when real life isn’t clambering for your attention. But this still requires discipline. If you don’t write regularly, you will not improve.
Experience the world because that is where your inspiration will come from.
Read a lot – and widely. Don’t stick wholly to your genre but you do need to know the area you’re writing in and what has come before.
Submit stories you have finished. Start small and aim higher as you go. Read the markets you target. Get feedback. Listen, revise, polish and resubmit.
When you submit, mark it on your tracking sheet. Set a reminder on when to query.
Once submitted, forget about that story. Honestly – you can’t do anything about it anyway, so why think about it. Worry about what you can control.
If you get a rejection, note any editorial comments, discuss with other writers, gain feedback, revise, polish, and resubmit. Never get angry. Venting is acceptable, but don’t get angry and ensure you get over it sooner rather than later. Rejections are not personal (even though sometimes they come across as such).
If you get an acceptance, celebrate. Enjoy it.
Enjoy the writing process, because if you don’t, there are easier ways to make a living and your family would prefer to spend time with you than watch you bang away at a keyboard.
So this week, I'll be working on getting this six page script to my liking. I'm not planning on doing anything else writing related. I probably will, but I'm not planning on it. And I won't be worrying about anything which is currently out in submission land or anything else I may be working on. If I get to other things, cool. If not, that's cool as well.
Monday, May 4, 2009
This post over at Aaron's blog got me thinking.