Monday, June 13, 2011

Are You Slacking?

I read a blog that I just have to share with you written by Valerie Bowman, 2011 Gold Heart finalist. This hit me right between the eyes that I definitely have been slacking.

Are You Slacking? Do the Math

Thank you so much for having me, Rubies! I’m so excited to be here and I couldn’t be more proud and honored to be a 2011 Golden Heart® finalist! By day I am a technical writer at a software company in Jacksonville, FL, by night I write fun Regency romps, and in between I am a dog lover, cake aficionado, avid traveler and Hoarders watcher. I’m a member of The Beau Monde Regency chapter of RWA and a former Vice-President of the First Coast Romance Writers.

Now that the intro is out of the way, saddle up. It’s time for some tough love, writing peeps. We’re talking production.

I have 3 questions for you.

#3 is actually the most important, but we’ll start with the first two so you can properly answer #3.

#1. What’s your ultimate writing goal? Do you want a career as a writer? Or do you see your writing as a hobby? Writing for fun is fine, of course, but be clear with yourself on that score. If you’re a career-minded writer, proceed to #2.

#2. How many years have you been writing? Seriously writing? By serious I mean – when did you sit down, crack your knuckles, and vow, ‘I’m gonna do this thing! I’m gonna write a romance novel and pursue publication. For real!’? How many years ago was that day? Remember? Now, keep that number handy, we’re moving on.

#3. Remember, this is most important! How many manuscripts have you completed? Got that? Completed. I’m not asking how many you’ve started, thought about, plotted, entered into contests. How many have you actually finished? Written, in their entirety, from beginning to end? Go ahead, name that number and be honest. Don’t round up. This is for your own good. I promise.

Ok, are you ready? Here comes the tough love. If the number of completed manuscripts isn’t as big or bigger than the number of years you’ve been writing, you are SLACKING. There. I said it. You are slacking. I’m sorry to be the one, but someone had to tell you.

I can hear you. I know what you’re saying. “Valerie Bowman, you don’t know me! You don’t know how freakin’ busy I am. How crazy my life has been.”

“Sorry,” I reply. “No excuses.” I’m shaking my head, but looking sympathetic. Trust me.

You’re sputtering now. I know. You’re drawing up your shoulders tight. You’re looking down your nose at me (which, trust me, isn’t difficult, I’m 5’2). “Valerie Bowman, you tyrant! You’re going to feel bad when you learn I have a very demanding full-time job, two kids, and a pushy dog.”

Believe me, I know. Life is hard. Bad stuff happens. We’re busy. But none of that changes the reality. If you can’t produce one new, complete story a year as a wannabe, you need to pick up the pace. Odds are, even as a full-time writer, you’re not going to pay your mortgage with one book a year or even two. Not at first.

Your hands are on your hips now. Perhaps akimbo. “But I’m learning,” you argue. “I’ve been rewriting my original manuscript for the last three years because I’ve gotten so much feedback on it. Good feedback. My CPs love the hook. And it’s even been a finalist in contests! So there!”

I’m shrugging now. And nodding. “Good for you,” I reply. “But do yourself a favor. Put that manuscript down. Back away. Write another story.” You need to do it. And you need to do it every single year. And you need to get better and faster. Yes! At the same time.

“How do you know?” you ask. Well, I’m not an authority. I’m simply telling you how the pros do it, but here are some pebbles from my writing path.

* The manuscript that landed me my agent was not the first one I queried her with. The first one earned me a standard form rejection letter.
* The manuscript I love the best has never made me a finalist in any contest and my agent didn’t even submit it. I still love it the best, but it’s sitting on my hard drive.
* I’ve entered every manuscript I’ve ever written into the Golden Heart contest. Some of them more than once. #4 finally made me a finalist.
* June 3 (yes, I remember the day) was my four-year anniversary of seriously writing romance. I am currently writing manuscript #5.

And here are some stats from the 2011 Golden Heart® finalists:

* Of 33 respondents, 24 of us became finalists with something other than our first manuscript.
* Over half didn’t become finalists with our first OR second manuscript.
* Over one-third became finalists with our 4th or higher manuscript.
* Two became finalists with their 10th or higher manuscript.

Convinced yet that production matters?

All right. All right. You got the message and I will stop. The tough love is over and I hope I’ve given you something to think about. Hard.

Now for the good news! You can turn things around. If your numbers aren’t where they should be, write more, write faster, pay attention to your production. Make it a priority. Declare today as the first day you really started taking your output seriously. You can turn it around. Remember, writing just one page a day will result in an entire book in a year. That isn’t so difficult, is it?

Now. Go write! (Ok, maybe take that pushy dog out first really quick. Then, write!)

I hope you enjoyed it and found it motivating. Enjoy the week and continue to write.


Alex said...

Ahh. I'm a slacker! :) I've been doing better. But having so many almost completed novels doesn't quite cut it, does it?

Thanks for posting this for us!

Josie said...

Thanks for sharing Valerie's post. I think she's right on, and have tried to step up my writing pace. No more excuses!

heather graham said...

Nice post--always something to think about. The work is what counts in the end!