Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Toolbox Tuesday: A Clock

Whether it's your great-grandfather's pocket watch or the tricked out timepiece you purchased at the last Steampunk convention, every writer needs some kind of clock.  I mean this in both the literal and figurative sense -- in other words -- both an internal and external clock. 

While it seems that the publishing industry moves at a snail's pace, that doesn't mean you should follow suit.  In fact, you want to be the opposite.  I'm not saying be the hare, because often slow and steady does win the race.  But you do need to be conscious of the time and you need to use it wisely.

Try the following:

1.  Don't procrastinate.  If you get an idea, write it down.  If you design the perfect dialogue while driving to Wisconsin, pull over and write it down.  It doesn't matter how busy you are, you need to make little concessions for your muse when she speaks to you.  Otherwise, when you eventually sit down to write, she might give you the silent treatment for ignoring her.  I'm not saying write that whole battle scene between Carlos and Gustav -- just a quick outline will do.  A few seconds here or there won't hurt.

2. Offer fast, reliable turn-around when your agent or editor sends you edits.  Don't sit there and say, "Well it took them five months to send me these, they'll have to wait for me now."  First of all, that's just a crappy attitude.  Second, if you want anything out of the industry, you've got to make it happen for yourself.  You want speed?  Do it yourself, cause you are the only thing you can control about this industry.  Plus, if you make yourself a punctual and reliable individual to work with, you're more likely to get more projects.

3.  Work on a clearly defined, reasonable schedule for the production of new work.  At this point, you should know yourself and what you are capable of.  How long would it take you to write, edit, and polish a manuscript cover-to-cover?  Use that time-line and allow yourself up to a month of buffer time (just in case you hit a snag or a little bit of writer's block).  Then, try to budget that time into a daily or weekly writing routine that you can stick to.  I know that, if I give myself time, I can finish a book in a month, but I give myself up to a year because I have external responsibilities that I can't ignore and my job often makes it so that I can't adhere to my daily writing schedule.

4.  You want to budget your time and energy so that you are producing literature while still participating as a member of the human race.  My first few novels were produced in this muddy haze of being lost in a 60 hour a week job and then coming home and hammering at a computer until I couldn't keep my eyes open.  I pretty much disappeared off of the face of the earth for a year.  No hanging out with friends, limited contact with family, and no R and R time.  Granted, I can and often do argue that writing is therapy for me, but that's no excuse for missing out on an entire year of the lives of people that I love and care about (not to mention missing out on a year I'll never get back).  I look back on that year and all I can remember is work and writing.  Be certain to wear the writer hat, but also make sure you're giving yourself time to wear the other hats.

5.  Avoid White Rabbit Syndrome.  You want to be aware of time, but don't let it rule your life.  You are an artist and masterpieces take time and patience to complete.  This is why we need realistic goals.  If you want to be published then you need a very clear understanding of just how much time it's going to take to get to the finished product and you need to understand that not all writers work well under pressure.  I learned that the hard way.  I know I can't go crazy obsessing over how long everything is taking because I'll just make myself sick or negatively impact my creativity.  If you find that you're having trouble writing while something is on submission, take a step back and analyze how you're handling the submission process.  Sometimes it's as easy as taking your bunny to a yoga class. :)

Hope that helps!  See you tomorrow!