Sunday, March 18, 2012

Waiting for Harvest: The Issue of Goals and Deadlines

It seems to me that some writers get very caught up in how many words a day they can crank out. For the first draft of a book this is great, but how are you setting your goals beyond the number of words?

One of the greatest experiences I have had as a writer was the chance to work as a journalist. There was no time for writer's block. There was no time to hem and haw over every little detail. If your work had to be in by four o'clock so that the paper made it "to bed" on time then you did it, no excuses. This is because it still had to go through the copy editor, the editor, typesetting, and paste-up before it could go to print. In my case I also had to come up with the story, pitch it to the editor, and then take it on. Because of the space limitations of a print newspaper, the length of articles and columns were measured in characters, not words. So you work hand in hand with brevity, not just for the material, but for the words you use to convey the material.

Finding ideas was often easy for me because I was the calendar editor for the paper first and foremost. My writing was done on a freelance basis on my own time. So I received most of the press releases that came into the bullpen first. So I covered a lot of art, some theater, and a wide variety of one-off topics. When all else failed, I resorted to the yellow pages. This is one place where the internet phone book fails utterly. You can't page through them by hand and find strange little entries that catch the eye. That was how I came to do a story on a school for training Santa Clauses. I also wrote a biweekly column and had to find a way to be funny on a deadline. When it comes to deadlines, you can't wait for your muse to show up and start whispering in your ear.

Because of this experience I rarely have a problem with writer's block. I tend to write to the point and am brief about it. When I am having issues, it is more likely that I am trying to "over write" the subject, putting in too many details rather than getting to my point.

So now to my point - plan beyond word count. Have an overall goal mapped out. Plan for how you will rewrite and edit. Maybe a chapter a day. Maybe 2500 words a day. Give yourself deadlines and do your damnedest to meet them. Make them realistic though, or you will be one unhappy camper. Have a plan for what you will do with your work once it is done. If all you wanted was to write and complete, then bravo, but most of us bitten by the writing bug have a need to share. So, are you going to self-publish or go the traditional route. If you are going the traditional route, set deadlines for selecting agents and publishers that you will be approaching. Set a deadline for your query letter. Self-publishers should set goals for when and where the book will be available. Set goals and deadlines for marketing your work. Books don't sell themselves.

Finding a writer's support group can be a godsend in helping set and maintain goals. If you can't find one that suits you in your area, they abound online. I belong to at least half a dozen on Facebook alone. Connecting with other writers is especially helpful when the self-doubt sets in. Family and friends around writers can become great nay-sayers because you don't write just like their favorite author.

I face all of this everyday that I sit down at my computer. I am a world-class procrastinator, so it isn't easy. There is still a lot I am feeling around in the dark to figure out. Especially on the marketing end. I also give myself the occasional day off. There should always be room for yourself.

No comments:

Post a Comment