Unorthodox Writing Tips 7: Plotting and Planning and Playing Goalie
I’ve always written more for my own entertainment rather than writing for someone else’s. I’ve written quite a bit. To date I’ve completed ten novels, and I have four others started with ideas for five different novels. Only four are part of a series, the rest are all the first of a potential series, but work as stand alone novels as well. I have also completed quite a number of short stories.
One thing I have mostly avoided. Plotting. I usually come up with an idea, have a vague direction, and go for it. Yes, I’ve written by the seat of my pants. This has lead to some good stories (I feel) but overall I always had a direction in mind and on occasion I would end up stuck. What I never did was write down the actual plot and direction, be it for shorts or novels.
I plan on changing this. I’m going to start writing at least a paragraph plot that will give beginning, middle, and end. Obviously I can flesh out the details as I write, but I’ll start with the act of getting the idea on paper (1st draft?). What I hope to achieve by doing this is getting the idea down and not just letting it flounder around in my brain until I’ve talked myself out of writing the work. When I was at my most productive I kept a running log of story ideas and I’d cross them out as I’d complete them. This helped me with writing one hundred short stories in one year. I doubt I’ll try to write that many again, but this leads me into my next topic…
Planning is another thing I’ve never done well. I would write stories, send them out, and start the next. I kept an excel spread sheet and made sure not to send the same story to the same place twice. I’ve long since lost this spreadsheet, but it was interesting to keep track of the ‘red’ cells which noted rejections and ‘green’ which noted publication and even the ‘yellow’ which showed waiting response.
What I didn’t have when I did this was a clear plan of action. It was just write, submit, and hope for the best. I didn’t know why I was doing it other than to try and gain publishing credits and improve my writing. Obviously I stopped as the rejection process is grueling and after hundreds of rejections it just wore me down (and the year ended). Once I completed that year I had intended to get back to writing novels, but I never sent anything out. Rejection of a short story was easy to take, but a novel? I didn’t think I’d be able to handle that kind of rejection.
It’s all part of the game, though. Rejection is just getting you one step closer to publication. So I now have a plan for getting my works out there. Beyond that I’ve taken on an ambitious project that will run parallel with Scott Roche. The idea is to write, edit, and publish a short story each month during 2012. Sounds ambitious, doesn’t it?
I’m excited, but I know I’ll never, ever, be able to complete this task without a plan. I have explained to my wife that my writing needs to move from a hobby to something more like a part time job if I’m ever to make it successful. I need to plot my stories so I’ll have a direction. I need to plan my time so I’ll be able to perform the work.
So where does playing goalie come in? Plots and Plans are nice, but I need to have an overall direction. I had always wanted to be a published author before I was forty years old. Well, that ship has sailed. Why? I let life happen and didn’t make life happen. I am going to change that by setting goals. Not just setting goals, but sharing those goals with my friends and family. I’ve started writing down where I want to be at the end of 2012 and it just starts with the ambitious project of a short story a month. It also includes getting worked cleaned up and/or completed and finally getting those works in front of a publisher or agent.
Yes I’ll be self publishing my shorts, but I am going to look for traditional publication for some of my works. I’ll also be continuing to self publish works as well. I had an ambitious desire for 2011 to have three books out, but I didn’t follow through and I now know why. I didn’t set out clear, definable goals.
I’ve read J.A. Konraths’ blog. I’ve read Mike Stackpole’s blog and newsletter. What I haven’t done is apply those teachings. Yes, being creative is a wonderful thing, but unless I treat my work as work and a business, I’ll only have limited success. So included in my goals for 2012 are to seek out ways to promote myself. Ways to get more eyes on my work. To have a definite number of sales. I’ll, of course, share those in my blog.
If all goes well, next year I hope to write nearly half a million words. Yes, I know that’s a lot. Yes, I know I’m aiming high. But I’ve got my goals written. I’ve got my plan laid out. Does it begin in 2012? NO! It begins today. Why should I wait for January 1st to start on the road? These are just the plans I want to accomplish in 2012. If I don’t get started on them, no one will start on them for me. There’s no better time than the present!
Until Next week.