Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Put Your Writing First and the Rest of Your Life Will Follow

My wife visited the Indonesia border market at Serikin, Sarawak and picked up a nice rattan mat.  I’m always amazed how a new piece of furniture, even if it’s just a mat, can set off a chain reaction of shifting furniture, cleaning, and revamping the whole downstairs if not the entire house.

 This applies to taking a fresh look at your novel.  I thought I was done with The Boy Who Shot Santa and ready to enter it into the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, but then I innocently thought I’ll just have a quick look at the first page to confirm it’s ready to go.  I shifted a word here and there, added a phrase, and since I liked the changes I was making, I thought maybe I should have a fresh look at the entire excerpt (between 3000-5000 words), and then I thought, why not the first fifty pages for James Jones First Novel Fellowship coming up in March.  Then I thought, what if I spend a couple more days on this and just go through the whole novel one more time, just in case, then I can sent it out on Monday with a clear conscience.

It’s thoughts like these that can wreck the next three days of your life, not to mention losing sleep to meet the opening deadline, thus putting everything else I had planned for those days on hold.  But then I remind myself, this novel is one of those Big Rock projects that if you don’t do first, you’ll never make time for later.  There aren’t that many unpublished novel contests out there that I’m qualified to enter and the three or four that I know are bunched up at the beginning of the year, so this is the time.  Not later, when you have more time, but now!  

I also believe that if you put your writing first, the rest of your life will follow, something I’ve been putting into practice for some time now, whether writing first thing in the morning, or first thing in the evening or whenever you choose to write.

So last night around midnight (Tuesday evening in Borneo), I finally got the novel sent off to Amazon.  Ok, it’s a day late, but in better shape!  Those who procrastinate too long, risk not getting it in on time (there’s a two week window of opportunity—maybe); or risk getting closed out (that’s the maybe, part).  Since they accept the first 5000 manuscripts in two categories from around the world, and anyone with a semblance of a novel, even those rushed, hatchet jobs pumped out in November for NaNoWriMo qualify (hopefully they rewrote and fixed them in December and January).  Then there are all those self-published novels, and e-novels…it seems every writer in the world has at least one novel stashed away somewhere, so why not dust it off and sent it in.  In other words, those 5000 places can go by fast.

Whether the novel is polished or off-the-top of your head, spit-it-out-fast-before-you-lose-it-affair, it still comes down to that 300-word pitch.  (And beginning writers often get their published friends to write their pitches for them, agents lament.  This becomes obvious when they request to see the full manuscript.)  Since the pitch is the key that opens round two for the Amazon (or an agent’s interest in the real world), can you blame them?  Just means the rest of us have to make darn sure that our pitches are even better than merely good.  They have to be great.

Wish me luck on my pitch and my novel, too, and I wish you—all of you who are thinking about entering or are submitting to agents—luck too.  For me, this is the year to just go for it.  And cleaning your house now and then doesn’t hurt.  A by-product of the chain reaction of the Serikin-mat buying and house revamping was that I ended up with a nice rocking chair in my office, where it’s finally getting some use by everyone in my family except me.  I’ve been too busy writing to rock.  But oh, it does look tempting…

*Update, The Boy Who Shot Santa has just made it to Round Two
                         -Robert Raymer, Borneo Expat Writer 

**Here the link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie.


© Timothy John Cody said...

inspiring... not only for a young disenfranchised american.. but for a fervent writer such as myself. I too, hope to expatriate soon. Was thinking about South America, myself, but Borneo sounds freaking sick! More power prosperity and salubriousness to you my fellow kin, in the future. You've inspired this young artist to write in every waking hour and tight squeeze, to pursue his dream.

BorneoExpatWriter said...

It's not easy, but when you put your priorities first instead of someday I would like to get around to that, magic starts to happen.

It's not going to be easy and it takes an awful long time and a lot of discipline to succeed, but people do it all the time! That's my motivation. If others can do it, so can I. So can you.

All the best, wherever you end up. Heard lots of good things about South America; some countries there are high on expat's lists of desirable and inexpensive places to live.

Here's some good advice, just keep your overhead low. The less you got to pay out every month the less pressure on you, and with less pressure you make better writing decisions.