It occurs to me that writing is not enough. Nobody told me there was more to it than the ideal of sitting in a log cabin in the woods banging out words on an old typewriter — or more in line with my own vision, sitting with a laptop on a balcony overlooking the ocean. I’m sitting on maybe a dozen finished (though many could use further editing) stories, one unfinished story, and one or two stories that haven’t been started yet. There’s also the unfinished novel that’s had its first chapter paraded through the Iowa Writers Workshop two years ago and only had another chapter or so added to it since. As if that’s not enough, I also have a second novel whose idea bloomed before the one that’s been started and a third, a YA novel, that’s now hammering in my head for attention.
If I spent eight hours a day cranking these things out, I could, in theory get them all finished in record time. That’s quite a pile of unpublished words collecting dust. Therein lies my problem and the meltdown I can feel creeping up behind me.
I’ve spent some time researching publishers to find homes for my finished pieces. This is not really something they teach you in school, and with the technology now available, anything they might have taught me would probably be wrong now. I was always under the impression that the Writers Market was the bible of publishing. Now that I’ve acquired an account with them, I’ve found their markets are extremely limited for my needs, and I’m better off searching the Internet on my own. But that takes time and patience. For the amount of stories I’ve got wasting away, it’s a full time job to find places to submit them.
In theory, I have a plan:
1. Write some good short stories. (As you can see, we’re floundering around step one.)
2. Get at least three or four of them published in professional markets.
3. While the short stories are out in the world looking for homes, work on the novel. (Really need to make a decision here on which one to write, but that’s another blog.)
4. With several stories published and the novel nearly finished, start the search for an agent.
5. Finish the novel and start querying agents.
7. Steal all the underpants.
8. There was no six.
9. Go on national tour to Barnes and Noble bookstores for book signings of my new novel.
10. Write a sequel.
You can see where it all starts to unravel.
The writing, the editing, the researching, the submitting, the waiting — I don’t know how to balance them. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m flying by the seat of my pants here. On paper, the plan looks good. In reality, I’m overwhelmed and not sure which priorities need to be set. Writing should be the number one priority, but to what end if everything I write gets put in a file and forgotten for awhile?
So, here’s my proposal: write more, but also set aside one day a week to do nothing but research publishers and submit work. I think I also need another day set aside for editing and formatting things that are finished so they’ll be ready to go when I find a promising market. That part shouldn’t be forever. If I do this right, the backlog of stories will get cleaned up and sent out, so I’ll be caught up and can concentrate more on new work.
Is this a plan? We’ll see how it goes. The meltdown is still stalking me. I can feel it’s scorching breath on the back of my neck.
Deep breaths. Deep breaths.