Friday, February 22, 2008

End of Month Ralley and Pep Speech!

GOAL: finish the JanNo! Fill in the holes! And rewrite whatever I have to! By the end of February! Go team! ... well, more like Go me! but whatever works and puts you in the mood.

I know the characters in this novel a little better now so I can write the conversations that I left out before. Don't get me wrong: there was a lot of dialog before ... I just didn't cover a lot of the things I should have.

With a goal like this it will be a tough week, but I know I need it. I need this kind of quantifiable accomplishment to prove to myself that I'm working hard with the time I have and to silence the little voice that likes to point to any failure in my life and tell me I'm a quitter.

I'm pushing forward now as hard as I can because I know I need to make the most of this time to accomplish completed manuscripts and get myself into the habit of writing constantly and writing hard. I'm floored by the applicants that say they "took months off of writing" to recover from their MFA applications. You can't be serious, right? What do you expect you'll be doing for 2-3 years if you get in? Certainly not taking time off. And if you listen to the current MFA students, they all say they wish they had written more the months prior to starting their MFA. When I've asked them why one did say that having "back up material" that he could take to a workshop if need be would have been nice but for the most part they all agreed that the habit of writing, and writing hard prior to the MFA would have been a great thing to have in order to adjust to the pace.

Say hello to SpeakCoffee's work ethic: a 60,000 word novel first draft (and still going obviously), and for the month of February I am submitting one short story a week to a literary publication. I've researched my markets, edited my work and keeping my fingers crossed.

How many times have I read that talent is a dime a dozen. That the people who impress are the ones who take the time to learn their craft and employ it. And that the ones who succeed are the ones who persist when all the other talented, skilled writers have given up and packed it in to drive truck cross country.

At the moment, persistence means increased output. The chain of logic is kind of long but let me explain:

The goal is to be a writer and teach writing at a college level.
  • To get a teaching position at most schools you need an advanced degree and a book length publication (they look at literary fiction not genre most of the time).
  • To get a book length publication you need a manuscript and an agent.
  • To get an agent you need A) extremely good luck or B) persistence and several magazine publications.
  • To be published in magazines/literary journals you need short stories of appropriate length that are in good shape and possess a Wow! factor.

So right now:

  • I have a BA in my chosen field.
  • I've applied to get that advanced degree.
  • I'm sending work to magazines/literary journals.

However, sending out work and hearing back is a very slow process, (for the very good reason that they're most often overwhelmed and underpaid). So to expedite the process you need to have one of three things happen:

  1. The first mag I send it to buys my stuff and I don't have to worry about it.
  2. I only choose markets that allow simultaneous submissions, to other markets.
  3. I have a lot of work that can be out at several different markets at once.

Option (1) is ideal, (2) doesn't always work out and so I need to work my magic on option (3): high output.

I know some of my programs have begun contacting applicants that they want. This makes me nervous that they don't want me. All this nervousness is translating into a drive to work even harder. I need to use this time to churn out as much as I can. To work as hard as I can. Because if they don't want me, I know I'll have to work that much harder than I am now to achieve my goal. I refuse to lie around and be devastated. When I was on my varsity field hockey team in high school I was floored when I didn't make co-captain my senior year. The girls who did make co-captain were shocked that it was them not me. So I knew I would push harder than ever and try my damnedest to make All-State team and MVP that next season. The next season I made All-State team. I didn't make MVP, instead I was voted the played that always gave 110% -- obviously I was doing something right.

We only have so many dreams in our lives. This one is mine. Like field hockey was mine. I'm going hard and I'm not giving up. I might not make MVP, but you can't fault my work ethic.

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