Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How to Balance Your Writing and Your Day Job – Part 2: Break it Down

Given an unlimited time to write and study the craft of writing, there is no doubt that most people would achieve some success. Talent is great, but time and practice are also key.

We may all feel we have the talent to be a great writer, but what we lack is the time.

Eating up that time are the people and things that make life worthwhile: your family and friends, your enjoyment of a good meal or a summer day or a good book.

But also pressing on your precious daily hoard of twenty-four hours is your day job. It’s what you need to do five days out of seven, fifty weeks out of fifty-two, in order to keep body and soul together.

The Plan

Once you have a goal, you need to figure out how to achieve that goal. I call this The Plan.

The Plan can take considerable thought, preparation and research. Don’t let that deter you. A solid plan created up front can prevent a whole lot of frustration later.

Break it down

By this time, you know what you want to achieve in your writing career because you’ve written down this goal. Hopefully, you’ve kept it someplace prominent where you see it every day. This will keep your writing goal at the forefront of your mind.

The essence of The Plan involves breaking down your writing goal into manageable steps or milestones. Yes, you want to publish a book-length work of fiction in five years. But that may not happen all at once on the last day of the fifth year. In fact, it can’t.

Publishing a book takes time and effort. You have to figure out what you want to write about. Then you actually have to write the book. Next comes editing. And more editing. These are all steps in the process.

So, if your goal is to publish a book in five years, your Plan may look something like this:

1. Figure out what to write about

2. Write an outline of your book

3. Write the first chapter

4. Write the second chapter, etc.

5. Seek critiques and then re-write all of the above chapters

6. Edit and polish your manuscript until it shines

7. Write a query letter

8. Write a synopsis

9. Research literary agents

10. Send your query package out to likely agents

As you can see, this is a one- or two- year portion of your ultimate plan. You haven’t gotten published yet. You haven’t even had a nibble. But part of breaking down your plan is to know which portions of the process you can control. In essence, you can control your writing. You can control the quality of your manuscript, query and synopsis. You can control the depth of your research into likely agents or publishers who might be interested in your manuscript.

You cannot control when or if your manuscript is accepted for representation and publication. All you can do is put forward your best case – and much of that will depend on how well you perform this step.

So, go on, break it down. Hammer time! Uh…I mean, writing time!

Photo courtesy of Pixomar at

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