Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Not Marvell’s chariot, but these guys look inexorable. You won’t stop them!

Andrew Marvell’s  “To His Coy Mistress” is one of my favorite poems, especially the line, “For at my back I always hear/Time’s winged chariot drawing near.” Those wingbeats thrum louder in my ears everyday.

By the end of June, after six weeks work, I’d achieved my goal to abolish fear of the blank page and establish a daily writing habit. I now had an additional 25,000 words to join the hundreds of thousands of words, crammed into my paper and computer files—novels, stories, children’s books, et al. in various stages of completion/revision. Few have seen the light of day. Some of my feeble and sporadic attempts at getting published have succeeded. But too often I’ve given up on my babies before they’ve had a fair chance.

Time to drag the kids out of the drawer, wipe their noses, wash their faces, send them out to make their way in the world. Early in July Project: Publish Before I Perish began.

For the first two months, I decided, I’d go easy on myself. My goal would be to revise and publish, in one form or another, the 25,000 words I’d recently produced. (In the fall, I’d start on all the other stuff I’ve written over the years.) Dividing 25,000 words by 50 working days, 25 each for July and August, worked out to 500 words a day, about two double-spaced pages, which is what Kate Di Camillo’s working stint is.

This didn’t mean I’d end up with 100 publishable pages. Some of the 25,000 words were mere meandering, of no interest to anyone but myself. The rest would need a lot of cutting and tightening. I wasn’t sure how many publishable pages to aim for. Fifty seemed like setting the bar too low; 60 might be more realistic, roughly one a day.

The other question was what constituted publishing. For the summer at least, I decided I’d count posts to the blog, as well as submissions of the Millay proposal to agents and editors—a bit of a problem, perhaps, since it would mean completing the research and writing of two sample chapters, but I thought I could pull it off. Also among those 25,000 words was other stuff I might be able to turn into a query, story, or nonfiction article.

So, no more kidding around. Sixty pages, 15,000 words, sent out to the world by Labor Day. If I planned to be a professional writer—consistently published and paid—before those winged horses start trampling on my head, the time to start was NOW.


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  2. I know the feeling. As I turned fifty, I felt a sense of urgency, that all the fiction I'd been writing for years had to become something, and for me, I had to know if it was worth anything, so I took some university level courses in fiction writing, and found that my "ramblings" were indeed coherent, competent, and compelling; in need of revision, of course, but showing quality in all of the necessary elements, particularly characterization, mood, setting, momentum, and dialogue. I surprised myself with a first short story. Since then, the question becomes, can I finish any of my several novels-in-progress? Can I submit my short stories and poems, and see them through to publication?

    So now, at 54, that time factor keeps ticking for me, too. But, you have published and you know you have all the skills in place. Good luck with your process. I've been following your articles for encouragement and inspiration!