An X on a map usually indicates buried treasure. I enjoy the visual of treasure hunters battling the elements, constantly studying their map, working their way to that treasure. Maybe that’s why I loved Romancing the Stone so much. It was about writing and buried treasure.
To me, X marks the winner’s circle, the finish line—the place on the other side of that goal I want to reach. I have to follow the guidelines to get there—publisher’s guidelines, as well as my own.
Whatever the guidelines and rules are, we all need to know them and follow them. They need to be listed on our pre-determined route to our X.
Long before I wrote and sold my first novel, I asked a couple of veteran writers for some feedback. Both ladies said they didn’t have time. They didn’t say it unkindly, but it wasn’t said with any encouragement either. I’ve never forgotten how much courage I had to conjure up to approach those two writers. I’ll never forget the embarrassment of the no, and wishing I’d never asked. I promised myself I’d always be an encourager–always!
That’s why coaching and mentoring writers is right up my alley. I enjoy helping new writers create a route to their X, or those who can’t seem to finish a project find their way to the end.
One of the writers I’ve been working with is drawing up a new plan. She’s published in short fiction, but these days her X is to finish a novella in three months. She doesn’t write fast or have a lot of time, but she wants to write a page a day, five days a week for three months. She’s never written a page a day before. She’s always been the paragraph-at-a-time type, editing along the way. She knows this new plan will be a challenge.
She’ll begin by answering some questions about her book, creating a short synopsis or an outline of the story, the way she envisions it now. Once she actually starts writing, of course, her story is subject to change. I know from experience that once we get to know our characters, our stories can evolve into something completely different. Sometimes our book becomes stronger, better. Sometimes not, because we lose our way, our focus.
I’ll be keeping her on track, providing resources, encouraging her in such a way that she doesn’t lose the integrity of her story, or her desire to write it.
From her synopsis, I’ll research publishers for her. Not everyone publishes novellas. At some point we’ll discuss traditional vs. indie publishing. There are some great small presses out there she might find appealing. I provide her with information; she talks and I listen. Her X is her X, if that makes sense. I won’t try to change her mind about her goal.
During the course of the next three months, she’ll email progress reports, ask questions, brainstorm with me if she has a need. If she becomes blocked or paints herself into a corner, I’ll help her determine the wrong turn she took, and how to get out of that corner.
I won’t be reading her book until she has a completed manuscript. I’ll read it, give her a ‘cold-eye-review’ or a detailed critique and we’ll discuss where she goes from there.
My job is to get this writer from page one to her winner’s circle, her finish line, her X, and I’ll do whatever it takes, whatever she needs, to get her there. It’ll be a fun, rewarding adventure for both of us. X marks the spot, and we’re on our way to finding her treasure.
What is your X and what are you doing to get there? Do you have a road map?