Monday, August 29, 2005

Initial Deadlines

For those of you who missed the blog last week (you know who you are), I apologize for the unscheduled hiatus. As this book edit-for-hire grows more and more intense, time is becoming an increasingly rare commodity.

I'm working on moving the blog(s) to an online e-zine / newsletter for writers. But that's not going to happen as quickly as I thought it might. So, for at least a little while longer, I'll continue to muse online right here. But perhaps not every day. It all depends on the whims of the mighty editing gods...

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I've made a pact with a friend of mine who's a script writer and features director.

We were both talking about ideas we had for cheap & scary horror / thrillers. We both liked each other's ideas -- but we're both terribly busy doing other people's stuff. So we've made a pact to each finish our respective screenplays by Halloween. With penalties for failure to make a particular deadline along the way.

Well – 12 o’clock midnight last night was our first deadline. We had to deliver an outline of our projects to each other or forfeit a $10 gift certificate. I finished mine and sent it with ten minutes to spare. As of right now, I haven’t seen his…

Already, this pact has been good for me. Though I procrastinated on it and got it done just under the wire – it did get done. Self-imposed deadlines are better than no deadlines at all. And, so often, the hardest deadline to make is the first one.

If you have something you’ve been hoping to get done, I encourage you to set yourself a series of attainable deadlines for doing it. If necessary, make yourself move heaven and earth to make the very first one. Then, your project will be officially “begun.” Something will have been done on it. It will exist somewhere other than just in your mind. That can provide the impetus you need to head toward your next deadline – and meet it, too.

The important thing is that you make your writing a priority. Remember the writer’s Golden Rule: No one cares more about your writing than you do.

If it’ll help you stay on track – you can always send me an gift certificate when you miss a self-imposed goal. It appears that I have begun to collect them. ☺

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Passion Praise

Yesterday, I got the following e-mail from Danielle Stephen, the brilliant illustrator who is working on a children’s book of mine:

“I have had a lot of time to work today. At the edge of the table I'm typing at - the dedication page is completely painted and complete. I did not know how I would feel about the final outcome - or if it would meet my expectations - or if it was going to be a lot more difficult than I thought to make it look right - but with what I ended up with I LOVE IT! I am just picturing it in print and opening a book up to this page and I just LOVE the way it turned out. It is more than I envisioned!!! It is rather large so I am going to try to find a way to scan it in portions and send it to you soon. I hope that when you do finally see it you are as thrilled as I am.

“I am also about half way finished with the next series of pages. I'm hoping to have those finished when I get time to work tonight. As long as I get a chance to work on this I will.”

I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to have someone bring that sort of energy and passion to work on a project of mine.

And she’s not just enthusiastic – she’s actually doing the work. In less than two weeks, she has accomplished more on this project than the other illustrators we worked with got done in two years. She hopes to be done with everything by this fall.

That, in a nutshell, is the difference between wanting a thing and doing a thing. Danielle has never illustrated a children’s book that made it into print before. That’s ok – I’ve never written one that got printed either. But she was a Top 10 Finalist in a children’s book illustrating contest. She has her Master’s degree in Art. She teaches other artists, and is a working muralist. She always wanted to do a children’s book, and when I approached her about joining in on my little project, she read the text and jumped at the chance.

She’s not worried about keeping tabs on every penny spent. She sees this project as a huge opportunity for her to do something she always wanted to do. When I approached her out of the blue (I’ve never met her. She did a mural for Paula, a friend of mine. After yet another artist bailed on our project, I asked Paula if she thought Danielle might be interested in talking to me.), she jumped at the chance.

She’s as excited about seeing this book take shape as I am. And that is the brass ring of all collaborations. When you find someone who believes in something as much as you do, that’s the person you want on your team.

So, if you want regular work in your field, the formula for success is simple. Do your homework. Hone your craft. Make contacts. Get the word out that you are capable and competent.

Then, when opportunity knocks, take advantage of it. Don’t talk yourself out of a great opportunity by telling yourself that you’ve never done something like this before. Don’t worry about being adequately compensated for your time (you probably won’t be).

Just jump at the chance to show the world what you’ve got. Let your excitement and enthusiasm show. It’s intoxicating to everyone else involved in the project.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Let the Games Begin

Today, slightly at odds with my better judgment, I made a pact with my friend Paul for each of us to finish an as yet un-begun screenplay by Halloween.

I couldn’t say no. The whole thing was actually my idea. I really didn’t think he’d go for it.

Now, if one of us doesn’t make the deadline (or any of three mini-deadlines, the first of which is a working outline by August 28), we owe the other a gift certificate to The rationale is that getting an online gift certificate is just tedious enough to make it worth our while to have the work done on time.

While part of me (a big part, actually) wonders why on earth I would willingly put MORE to do on my plate, the writer in me understands.

Paul and I had been talking about our respective ideas for thrillers and / or horror flicks that would be fun to write and cheap to make. We’re both horrifically busy doing other people’s things. And I know that if I just let myself work on my scripts “when I have the time,” they’ll never get written. (It appears that the days when I had hours to myself to write and create to my heart’s content are long – long! – gone.)

So, I reasoned, if I could write a 50,000 word book for someone else in 2 months, I should be able to write a 100 page script for myself in that amount of time. We’ll see how realistic and reasonable that rationale is, as I juggle this into the rotation of actual “paying” work.

I’m challenging all serious writers who regularly read this blog to join in on our little quest. Make a pact with yourself to finish a “certain special something” that you’ve been wanting to get to for some time now. Have a working outline of it done by midnight, August 28 (the final project does NOT have to follow the outline exactly).

The other deadlines are as follows:
• At the end of week 5 (Sunday, September 18), the rough draft of the project must be 1/3 written (for screenplays – the first 30 pages).
• At the end of week 8 (Sunday, October 9), the first 2/3’s of the project should be done (for screenplays – up through page 60).
• On October 31 (Halloween night!), the full first draft is due.

Come up with appropriate penalties (like the afore-mentioned gift certificates) to keep yourself on target. The penalty for missing the final deadline should be a whammy – more than the other three combined.

Any takers?