Friday, June 7, 2013

A Year of Writing: First Month

People often ask the best way to start a writing career. The answer is, of course, to just do it already. But many of us enjoy the step by step process, and so, for fun, here is one that, though is a singular way to do it, is a beneficial method crafted for those interested in long-term career planning.

(Note: This is mostly intended for novelists.)

Day 1: Write a short story.
Write a short story in the genre that you like best. In order to finish it in day, I suggest under 2,500 words. If you are a slow typer or a perfectionist, go for flash fiction (under 1,000.) Finish it no matter what. Longer then planned? You need to complete it anyway and then learn your lesson.

Coming up with an idea:
Pick your problem and your point.

The problem is an issue that you can’t stand and the conflict of your story. The point is what you think about that problem, for instance, how to best solve it or why you think it is a problem. (I feel that bitter teachers should not be allowed to teach. My character’s antagonist is a bitter teacher. My point is that when bitter teachers are allowed to work they only make everyone else like them.)

Day 2. Edit your short story.
Editing right after finishing allows you to utilize all the concerns you had while writing as you still remember them.

Day 3. Write another short story.

Put the first one aside and don’t touch it. Write another. Now that you better know your capabilities, you better know what word count to aim for.

Coming up with an idea:
Trap the kind of person you would love to be in a room with someone you’re proud you’re not.

(Note: if you can’t get inspired, just start writing. The higher priority is finishing.)

Day 4. Edit second short story.

Day 5. Edit first short story.

Now that you’ve had two days off, go back to the first piece and do the next draft.

Day 6. Write another short story.

Coming up with an idea:
Put a character in a situation he doesn’t want to be in. Explain why he can’t get out of it. Get him out of it.

Day 7. Edit third short story.

Day 8. Edit second short story.

Day 9. Edit first short story.

Remember, you can do as much as you like, but only one draft is necessary.

Day 10. Write fourth short story.

Coming up with an idea:
Considering the first three stories, take something that you have constantly done in every one (say a realistic modern day American setting or always having a male protagonist) and do it differently.

Day 11. Edit fourth short story.

Day 12. Edit third short story.

Day 13. Edit second short story.

Day 14. Without rereading the first story, write down a list of things you think about it.  
What you like, what you don’t like, what you meant to do, what you would like to do, what you want to change, what is tolerable, etc. Be as specific and honest as possible, but don’t worry about finding the answers yet. Just by forcing yourself to talk about it, you will understand it better.

Day 15. Edit the fourth short story.

Day 16. Edit the third short story.

Day 17. Without rereading the second story, write down what you think about it.

Day 18. Edit the fourth short story.

Day 19. Edit the third short story.

Day 20. Without rereading it, write down what you think about the third story.

Day 21. Sit down with someone and read your first short story to them.  
While not giving any hints about what you thought of it, note things that you agree with, disagree with, and help you solve problems. After they’re done speaking, feel free to discuss everything in any way you want. Always be respectful and keep a good impression of yourself, but don’t deny that they may, in fact, be an idiot. Or worse, a jerk.

Day 22. Edit the forth short story.

Day 23. Without rereading it, write down what you think about the fourth story.

Day 24. Edit the first short story.

Day 25. Read the second story to a friend and get feedback.

Day 26. Query the first short story to places.

To find places to query to, you can use which is wonderful, but costs five dollars a month. Or go to Santa Monica Review, Prism Review, or Larks Fiction for three random ones. You may submit to these, but, more importantly, while reading the author’s bios or Google searching them you will find the names of other journals.

Remember that some places don’t want material you’ve also sent elsewhere. Follow the instructions and submit to at least one place, if not more.

Day 27. Read the third story to a friend and get feedback.

Day 28. Edit the second story.

Day 29. Read the fourth story to a friend and get feedback.

Day 30. Query the second story.

Day 31. Edit the third story.

And that is end of month one. You have finished two short stories and have two more close at hand. 

If you find you love your story in draft two (and you’re being honest with yourself) then feel free to go straight to querying. If you do not feel comfortable doing that, it is a good sign you feel something isn't perfect with it and should definitely keep redefining it. If you have finished the fourth draft and you still want to make changes, then go ahead and keep tweaking. But remember perfectionism that prevents you from taking a step forward is not a good thing.

By the end of this month not only will you have material for your portfolio, but you will have a good amount of editing experience which will make you quicker at writing in the future.