Wednesday, May 04, 2011

How To Swim In A Sea of Ideas

Many years ago at a writer's conference I took a continuing session from long-time Guideposts Contributing Editor Elizabeth Sherrill. One sentence from that teaching has stuck with me for years, "Writers are swimming in a sea of ideas."

Our writing can go in a million different directions. There are countless print magazines, book publishers, online magazines and much more to pull our writing talent. How do you keep track of the various ideas yet still focus and not have a bunch of half-baked material in your files?

Many writers have asked me how in the world I've created such a large body of published works. Normally I respond, "Writing a book is like eating an elephant. You do it one bite at a time--or one page at a time or one paragraph at a time." It is a matter of consistently working toward a goal and completing that goal. Then you plan a new goal and work toward that goal. Half-written articles and stories do not get published or go anywhere.

I want to give you several ideas to capture those ideas yet to also focus on moving forward and accomplishing your publishing dreams.

First, take time to plan. Have a daily "to-do" list and cross off those items. Are you moving forward toward your short-term and long-term goals? What is holding you back? Can you eliminate or lessen those things that are holding you back? The time you spend in planning will reap huge benefits to your writing life.

Also, write down your ideas. Every writer needs a place to keep these ideas. I suggest you purchase a simple blank notebook and use it to write down your ideas, dreams and possible writing projects. Here's the key: you write them down but do not execute them. They are captured so you can return to them but not overwhelming you.

Weave these ideas into your daily writing life. If you want to get into magazines, then you need to be pitching or writing queries for magazine editors. If you want to get a book publisher, then you need to learn how to write a book proposal and be pitching book editors with your proposal--yet only after it is carefully crafted and not half-baked.

Commit to consistent writing and submitting. Besides the necessity to write and complete your ideas, you need to be sending it out into the marketplace--to editors and agents who can move you toward publication. You accomplish nothing to have partially written or completely written manuscripts in your computer or paper files. I have a number of projects that are in different stages of completion. I'm working consistently to get these projects completed and launched into the marketplace. You can follow the same path.

Keep Knocking on Different Doors. You never know which door will be the right one for your writing. In fact, you will never know if you don't consistently knock on that door to see if it will open. Persistence and perseverance will pay off.

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4 Comment:

At 9:31 AM, Blogger Ruby Left a note...

What about creating your own door? Self publishing, your own magazine, etc. How do you get others to knock at your door?

At 4:59 PM, Blogger Joyous Left a note...

Such a good reminder. Goal-setting is an important step and I, for one, am ramping up my writing goals on paper this year. It's also important, as you mentioned, to keep working and keep submitting. You never know where it will end up. You do if you don't send it out, though. In a drawer somewhere!

At 9:37 PM, Blogger Jodi Janz Left a note...

I found your post encouraging. I was not swimming - I was drowning in a sea of ideas.
I am a new writer - seventeen months. I have found that since I opened this 'can of worms' the stories came so fast and so often I was almost immediately overwhelmed. I could not type fast enough to keep up. So I began 'telling' the story to myself on a word document and then filing it away. It took a day or two away from my wip but then I could refocus. (At least until the next one arrived.)

At 1:58 PM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...

Ruby, you are right anyone can publish online or self-publish but from my experience that is not the best way to learn your craft. Instead you need to be writing for print magazines and book publishers. When you write for them, you have to write what they want (and they are the gatekeepers for the market). You have to learn to pitch ideas that attract the editor--and the reader. It is a much more in-depth skill that you will develop than you ever can writing on your own.


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