Writer Seeks Commitment

Six novels, two scripts and seven nonfiction books.  That’s what I have in development right now.  Let me tell you, it is eating every day at a cafeteria.  Too much to choose from and real doubts about nutrition.

The summer was great.  I was able to handle Lucky Numbers (and later Charm Offensive), plus a series of nonfiction projects.  Sit down.  Do a thousand words of fiction.  Open a new file.  Do a thousand words of nonfiction.  No questions about what to do next.  It was a routine I thrived on.

Things are more complicated as I head into the winter.  It isn’t clear which of the projects has the most claim on my time.  And, making things more complicated, I’m not just filling pages.  I’m also rewriting and analyzing.  And responding to critiques that come online, on paper, via email and face-to-face.

After months of knocking my characters off balance, they are desperately competing for my attention.  Their shouting, buttonholing and acting out is so vigorous that it’s hard for me to put things in order.  Is this the writing life?  Or just a symptom of attention deficit?

I’m making the projects stand in line now.  No more than two will claim my efforts on any given day, and I’m putting criteria in place.  Those with deadlines come first.  Usually, this is for contests, and my ordering is around the probability of my getting something out of the contest (such as a good, needed critique or an opportunity to get my prose in front of an editor or agent).  After that, I’m looking at chances to complete work — a proposal, a short story, an article.  Partial works suck up energy.  Completed works (even as drafts) generate energy.

Fun still comes in and one of my criteria.  My rationale is that 1) if I’m not having any fun, the reader isn’t likely to, and 2) if writing becomes a drag most of the time, I might as well find another vocation that pays better.

Have I solved my problem?  Of course not.  But I think that I am entering into a new, more balanced routine for full-time writing.  The next change will come when I start to get some contracts in place — real commitments, not ones I can change at a whim.  That will create a whole new dynamic and force me to once again reevaluate how I put together my days.  I’m looking forward to new adventures.

Odds and ends…  Finally, a bit of recognition.  In one competition, I had a synopsis come in third.  Not exactly the Nobel Prize in Literature, but encouragement is good at this stage.  Next week will be crazy, with results back on six entries in three writing contests.


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