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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Making a Plan, Stan

It is an indicator as to how much I enjoy Middle Passages that it sucks me in each morning, to the detriment of a clean floor, folded laundry and other more compelling projects. After a point though, in order to be successful at the, ah, business at hand (read this as a "more compelling project"), it becomes necessary to discipline myself. To that end, this morning I refused to give in to the temptress that is Middle Passages, so as to complete a task over which I’ve been procrastinating for at least a month.

Lately I’ve been reading so many writing blogs and a consistent tenor reigns in many of the posts. Along with individual creativity and imagination and talent, order seeps through and I note how many writers approach their work as a business, planning their drafts, outlining, revising and realizing per-day writing goals. And while I am in love with the writing and am seriously cool on revising, there’s one thing I have to admit: I hate, no, make that, HATE outlining. In school, I abhorred the requirement to complete a plan for a teacher’s approval before beginning a paper, struggling to complete the task, because folks, I just wanted to write, to skip the hard work and get to the fun. Sometimes in secret I did just that--wrote first and backed into my outline based on what I had already written.

And, since now I'm a tad more grown up, and recognize the need while lacking the will, I’m impressed with those who take the time to put form and guide posts in, before writing. I offer kudos, all the while wondering how you do it. How do you know what your characters are going to do? Do you sketch out entire stories in your minds before sitting in front of the computer? Are your outlines vague suggestions, or actual maps of the tale you intend to write? I am aware there are free spirited writers who don’t outline at all, but still, I have to think that they have some idea of what’s to happen in their books.

So there it is out for all to see--my bad habit of letting things grow organically, both in my garden and in my life--and the problem is that the chore I have been delaying on, similar to writing a novel, requires bricks and mortar, shovels, hoes and chisels to give some shape to its guiding walls. No, I'm not writing a book, but given this propensity for letting things um, evolve; you can imagine how easy it’s been for me to write a business plan for LCS Writes. As in--not. At all.

I’ve been dragging my feet since December, having positioned myself at the computer several times--intent on forcing the issue, only to drift away on a Middle Passages post instead. Writing this blog is so much more, well, unplanned. Sometimes I have a topic, sometimes I don’t. Even when I have a general gist, in the end, I simply capture what ever comes out, edit the you-know-what out of it, publish it, go back in to identify my obligatory typo, edit the thing again, and hit publish one more time. Bam! Mission accomplished.

Turning off the computer at the end of the day, I rationalize that I have completed work that counts, and while I’m convinced the blog does count in some yet-to-be-discovered way, it’s not doing much toward generating business for LCS Writes. In order to achieve success in that particular undertaking, I need to make a plan. A business plan. Dare I say it? An outline. Set goals. Determine strategies. Estimate costs. Chart out a marketing course.

Yet, in the same way writing an outline flummoxes me, this business plan confounds me too. How do I know how much business I’ll develop? How can I plan, when my fledging writing firm has minimal history? Similar to my awe with regard to writers who outline a book’s future, conjuring up action from the black hole that drifts at the edge of imagination, so too, I respect people who can forecast a new business venture.

The only good thing here, is that I know myself well enough to understand that my Middle Passages delay tactics will only last until my bottom wedges up against a wall, which is where I found myself this morning. In case you needed to know, the wall is an outside one--and it feels pretty cold. Tomorrow I’m meeting with a mentor to discuss my business plan and there’s not much to gain there if I arrive unprepared. So this morning, I ignored Middle Passages while bootlegging a business plan off the Internet and editing it for my own purposes. It’s a draft, incomplete and in need of expert revision, but it’s been typed, emailed ahead, and will begin to provide some parameters under which I too, will build a story.

Big exhale here. This Middle Passages post is my reward.

How do you plan your writing?


Elana Johnson said...

I'm so with you! I don't outline either. I just sit down and write. And I "plan" it whenever it comes. If there's words inside, I write them down. The end. If there's not, I'm thinking about the words that should be inside until they come.

I don't even outline when I'm finished, so you're way ahead of me! Go you!

glnroz said...

I always seemed driven to state, "I am not a writer", but, lol. I just finished skimming over a book on writing by Stephen King. He stated that he does not always know where his story is going. I havent read The Stand yet, but I think he mentioned that he got it so complicated he just invented a giant explosion to get rid of a lot of baggage.. lol Now on a business plan. I use a more structured method, but you hit right on it(budgeting) Briefly start with the number you want as profit and "rithmetic" it back up to the top. lol It is more detailed than that , lol but basically thats it.

Anonymous said...

As the ideas for my novel come thick and fast, I find I'm going to need an outline better than the bunch of scenes in my head, just to make the darn thing fit together. As for business plans, I've investigated those for my work, and they're tricky little buggers sometimes. Still, having a goal to work toward is wonderfully motivating.

Good luck, good lady!

Tamika: said...

I don't outline in the traditional sense, but I plan each chapter. I craft character sketches to better unfold my character dynamics.

This is the only way I can write effectively. I tried really hard to be a panster, but it left me frustrated.

J.B. Chicoine said...

I have my general story arc in my head when I begin. Of course, characters have a will of their own, and the only tether I use is a timeline, which in my current WIP spans centuries—got to keep all those generations in sync.

I’m intrigued by the idea of a full-fledged outline—I suppose I should try one just for the discipline of it; just like I should set a word-per-day goal. I fear it will turn out the way mandatory assignments usually do: I pretty near flunk, even if I have an aptitude.

Sue said...

I hope you eventually found "Ladies Who Launch"...