Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Year of Writing: Twelfth Month


It’s the last month of a whole year dedicated to writing. Your books are completed, short stories shelved, and you are on your way to the first wave of official rejection. Congratulations!

Day 1. Research and personalize query to second agent.

As we discussed last month, it is important to tell an agent why you think you would work well together. This makes them take a better notice of you, flattering them as well as indicating that you care and are willing to do your work, rather than being just one of the hundreds who think, “I’m going to throw my book out there and everyone will want it.”

Day 2. Research and personalize query to third agent.

Day 3. Write a blog post.

Day 4. Research and personalize query to fourth agent.

Day 5. Research and personalize query to fifth agent.

Because this is (hypothetically) your first book and submission request, it’s best to start small. You’re probably going to get a few rejections back, and, unlikely but hopefully, some sort of feedback. While there are a lot of agents in the world, they’re not unlimited, and it’s often a good idea to test the waters first.

Mark down on your list who you sent letters out to.

Day 6. Edit a short story.

By this time, you should have a total of eight short stories, with at least eight edits between the last four. Keeping in mind a goal of three edits per work, it means we have four more to go. For those of you thinking, I’m a writer not a mathematician for a reason, just listen to the soothing sound of my orders. Find the closest one to being done and work on that.

Day 7. Query a short story.

Let’s get back to this. Again, you want the ability to say, “I’ve published over 20 short stories,” so until you hit 21, you should continue querying.

Day 8. Find or start a writer’s group.

This is a lot easier said than done; believe me, I know. Writer’s groups are hard to gather, hard to keep together, and hard to make remotely useful. But they can be fun, and, more importantly, expedite the process faster than anything else.

Look in bookstores, newspapers, online forums. Ask everyone you know if they would be interested. You might realize you can’t do get three people in the same room together at the same time, but at least you can’t say you didn’t try.

Day 9. Write down your controversial opinions on writing.

Do you like semicolons? Do you like rhyming or non-rhyming poetry? Terse, Carver-esque language, or exaggerated Calvin and Hobbes philosophy?

Try to figure out what you believe about writing that you know you will get in arguments about in the future. This will allow you to spend less time wondering, “Do I disagree because I want her to be wrong or do I actually disagree?” when someone gives you feedback. When someone tells you you overwrite, you can ask yourself are you trying to be like Dean Koontz or more like Stephen King? Rather than sitting there, confused as to if you are doing something wrong or not, you have a better understanding about what is a personal taste.

Day 10. Write a blog post.

Day 11. Make a five-year plan.

Writing is a business, especially if someone wants a career in it. (That’s a joke, my friends.) The biggest mistake people make in writing that they often won’t in any other aspects of their lives is that they have all the time in the world to do it.

Set up a series of reachable, if not challenging goals, and plot out what you need to do it, including what you would like to have done.

Talk about education, resume, awards, promotion and anything else you can think of to help you get to where you need. Even consider a list of different tactics that could help you achieve your goals such as:

Write a great book, get a good platform (a million Twitter followers), get a lot of hits on your blog, network, have some credentials like winning contests, etc.

See where your career is lacking. At this point, probably everywhere. Start keeping your eyes and mind open to solving these problems.

Day 12. Read a published short story.

Now that you have an idea of how to write short stories, it’s a good time to go back and figure out what other people are doing.

Day 13. Read beginning of second novel to friend.

Read through the first three chapters (usually what agents ask for first) to a friend and get their suggestions and feedback.

Day 14. Write a query letter for second novel.

Day 15. Edit query letter for second novel.

Day 16. Edit a short story.

Day 17. Write blog post.

Day 18. Edit query for second novel.

Day 19. Write a fake query for second novel.

Let loose and make the most ridiculous, heartfelt query you can possibly muster. Either you’ll come up with something great or terrible, but it will tell you what you should or shouldn’t be doing.

Day 20. Edit a short story.

Day 21. Edit query for short story.

Day 22. Get feedback from reader of second story.

Again a month has passed and it’s feedback day! Let’s pretend your friend has actually read your novel and pull them aside to see what they have to say.

Remember to take charge and take care of them.

Day 23. Edit a short story.

Day 24. Edit pages 1-50 of second novel using friend’s feedback.

Day 25. Edit pages 51-100 of your second book.

Day 26. Edit pages 101-150 of your second book.

Day 27. Edit pages 151-180.

Fourth draft of your second novel is finally done! Time to celebrate. Hand out copies and wait for some feedback, but for now, live long and carefree!

Day 29. Edit second query letter.

AND LASTLY…

Day 30. Brain-storm ideas for third project.

This time we have a break so as to give our first book the courage it needs to head out into the world. But now we have to keep the show on the road.

Start your next book. Keep moving forward. Always stay busy.

Now that it’s time to end the year off, you have officially come to terms with your own personal strengths and weaknesses, tendencies and faults. You don’t need me anymore. Start plotting out a personal schedule for you; make up your own Year of Writing. And, most importantly, look back on what you’ve done and feel accomplished. We did it!