Sunday, October 14, 2012

Writing Your First Draft

Do you find consistent time to write? In this busy world, it is a challenge for all of us.

Yes, I struggle with this issue since I have a day job as an acquisitions editor. It means the bulk of my day is spent on the phone with authors and literary agents or reading manuscripts or processing their material and championing their cause to our publication board or answering author’s questions about contracts. The business of publishing is not easy and involves lots of communication via email and the phone.

Often this situation leaves limited time for writing. I want to list several ways to make this time:

1. Make writing a priority. Is it more important than watching the latest news program or reality show? You need to understand you are making a choice to watch these programs.

Or are you sleeping instead of writing? Maybe you need to write first in your day instead of reading through Facebook or your email. In taking this stance, you are making another choice and giving your writing priority.

As I write these words, I’m on an airplane headed to Chicago. The people around me are sleeping or reading or talking with each other. I’m not doing any of that but instead pounding the keyboard of my AlphaSmart.

While I do have a laptop in my bag, my AlphaSmart is a perfect tool for writing on the airplane. It has a full size keyboard and only four lines on a little screen. It runs on three AA batteries and is always ready to go when you turn it on and start typing.

This little gizmo holds 100 pages of text and some of my novelist friends write their entire manuscripts on this little device. Years ago I bought a used AlphaSmart on Ebay for $30 and it continues to be one of my best online purchases because I use it all the time. These little machines are tough and never wear out.

While the AlphaSmart isn’t perfect, it is ideal for writing first drafts. You can use it on the fly in any place or situation.

As a journalist, I learned to compose at the keyboard when I was in high school. This valuable skill has allowed me to write almost any place I have a keyboard.

2. Have a plan for your writing. When you write, are you drafting a scene for a book or the opening of a magazine article or a blog post for your readers? If you have a plan, you will hit the ground running instead of procrastinating wondering what words you will put down.

3. Continually be looking to build relationships with editors and other writers. In my years in publishing, I’ve repeatedly seen the importance of relationships. You meet an editor or another writer and maintain your relationship through email or the phone or even mailing a note from time to time. This sort of effort pays off.

Writers need others in the publishing world. We can’t get very far in this business without editors, agents and other publishing professionals and most importantly readers of our material. Give priority to building and maintaining these relationships. It will pay off for you—as I’ve seen it pay over the years.

This week I noticed one of my local friends celebrated a milestone birthday. I spotted the news on Facebook and sent her a little email greeting. Then later in the day I called her to wish her Happy Birthday. I had no other agenda than to make this quick call. I learned she had fudged on her age on Facebook so it wasn’t the milestone that it proclaimed. She appreciated my short call and I did something significant to continue my relationship. What steps are you taking in this area to build and maintain your connections? They are important to your writing life.

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1 Comment:

At 5:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous Left a note...

I have one of these, too, Terry and I've found it invaluable -- especially when traveling. I also love how the thing will run and run and run on just a few AA batteries.

Using the AlphaSmart is what helped me develop the concept of "writing at the speed of mind," a process by which I turn off that internal editor and just knock out the first draft as fast as I can!


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