19 September 2009

The P.U.P strategy: Persistence Using a Plan

I. Snowstorm
You may have heard the story about the guy lost in the blizzard. It’s freezing and he’s shivering so hard he can barely walk. Its dark, the snow is swirling around him. He has no idea if he’s going in the right direction. Onward he pushes. On and on. Until he just can’t go any further. Finally, he gives up and lies down in the snow. He’s exhausted and goes to sleep. The next day, they find the man dead. Ten feet from his front door.

Let’s relate that story to writing, since I’m familiar with that. But I think the blizzard analogy has something to say about life too. What’s that? To just keep going, right? Well...maybe.

II. Mountains

Let’s leave the snowstorm. I’m from Tennessee, so I can’t really relate to that much snow.

Let’s go to the Smoky Mountains. Let’s pretend you’ve been dropped in the woods. You don’t know where you are, where you need to go, or how long it’s going to take to get there. So, is the plan to keep walking and walking — simply to persevere?

A. Easy
It could work. There are people who write their first book, and it sells right away. Or maybe they get a great job and climb the corporate ladder with ease. Or they marry their high school sweetheart and live happily for years. Maybe they have a great sense of direction — or maybe they’re just lucky. But most people, like me, you can wander around out there among the trees for years.

B. Stuck
What if, you write one book, or 2-3 connected books. Maybe in a hard to sell subgenre. Is continuing to revise these books, or continuing to send them out, really the way to go?

What about going from one job to another of the same type, always expecting to actually like this one. Dating the same type of guy, but it never works out. Hmm, maybe you’re wondering around in circles and need to figure out the direction you’re traveling in.

And speaking of direction.

C. Direction Changes
How about the person who goes in one direction for a while, decides that might not be working; changes to another, decides something else would be better, and goes in yet another direction. That would be me, BTW. I’ve written nonfiction, science fiction, horror, humor, mainstream, paranormal romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, you name it, and I’ve probably tried it. That, plus an “interesting” life, and is it any wonder it took me so long to get published.

It was actually my frustration that finally got me my first success. I’d gotten a few too many rejection letters, and I wrote a humorous little piece about rejection slips coming alive and harassing the writer. I sent it out, and it got rejected—the only time I laughed when I got a rejection. I ran out of places to send it, so I put it away. A couple of years later, I found out about a small press magazine called The Rejection Quarterly, and I thought if there was ever a place for “The Dreaded Rejection Slip” that was it. I sent it in, and it was accepted.

This experience taught me a lesson. You not only have to be persistent have to match what your strengths to what’s available out there. You have to have a plan.

III. My Plan
Let’s to back to the woods. Let’s say you’re pretty sure there’s a road somewhere toward the north. So you pull out your compass. Didn’t pack one? Okay, so you try to figure it out some other way. But you do pick a direction. Then you go in it. And keep going. No matter what the distractions, you keep your focus on the direction you’re going. But you also keep re-evaluating. You need a plan, but it shouldn’t be set in stone.

Looking back, what held me back for so long, in writing and in my life in general, was not dealing with my weaknesses, ignoring my strengths, and not matching my abilities to where I could most effectively use them — in my case the publishing world.

Everybody has different interests, strengths, abilities, and weaknesses. We’re all different, and that’s a wonderful thing! Don’t fight your differences; put them to work for you.

III. Your Plan
Okay, to get out of the woods, you have to decide on a plan and go with it long enough to really give it a chance.

For writers, the first question is romance, women’s fiction, horror, mystery, etc. Then what subgenre. For me, romance, paranormal, action, suspense, that’s what really gets me going. Look at what you read, and at the movies and television shows you watch. While I was busy beating my head against the wrong doors, I was watching mostly action and paranormal type movies and television shows. When I finally tried a paranormal, I loved the writing process, and immediately got interest from editors and agents.

I recommend looking at what you read and watch (television and movies). That should give you an idea of what would be best for you to write, or what area you should be looking for work. Look outside the box. Like medicine but don’t have years to become a doctor? How about lab tech, receptionist at a doctor’s office, transcriptionist?

Still, you may have to write a lot of books, date a lot of guys, and try a lot of jobs to finally figure out where you belong in the big bad world. Just be careful out there.

IV. Conclusion
Do some soul searching. Decide YOUR direction. Then go and keep going for long enough to give your direction a chance. You may decide later that the road really isn’t to the north, and then you have enough information to decide whether to go south, east, or west.

Whatever you decide, I wish you all the best!

Cheryel Hutton


Carolan Ivey said...

Great post, Cheryel!

If I went strictly in the direction of my income stream, logic would tell me to quit fiction writing altogether and put all my energies where the money is.

But it'd break my heart. :)

Alayna Raquelle said...

You wouldn't believe how amazing the timing of your post is. Thank you. :D

Liz Kreger said...

Some thought provoking ideas and advice, Cheryl. And a tough call. Like Carolan, if I went the income route, I'd have starved. LOL. But I write mostly for the love of it. I'd feel like something was missing from my life if I didn't.

Thanx for the timely post.