I moved my cheese: expanding my writer’s goals

I had an opportunity this week; I took it.

In part, I created the opportunity: I followed a bread-crumb trail made of interesting links to a website (Venture Galleries) where both finished and in-progress novels are serialized, and I wrote to one of the administrators to ask how they got their contributors. He wrote back that they were looking for one more participant – and hadn’t had the time to find one. He asked me for a sample and some information.

I got the requested material to him by the end of the day.

He wrote back to say nice things. And invited me to join them.

Change happens

Everything in the world changes, and changes frequently. You can fight it, hide from it, or take it on.

It reminded me of a little book I came across a few years back – in Staples, of all places – called Who Moved My Cheese? and subtitled: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life.

I have this habit of applying business ideas to writing, not only because writing will eventually be a business for me, but because business books are often pithy and well-written, in clear English, and meant to have an immediate impact in the way you operate. The successful ones, even if based on an idea which seems obvious, somehow add enough value to the idea to make it seem fresh and insightful and timely.

I remembered this little book because it was so short (I think I was looking at a mini-version they put out as an impulse gift buy) that I skimmed it while standing there in the store, looking for a reason to shell out $5 for something not much bigger than one of the board books we bought, or borrowed from the library, and which we read so many times to the kids that we wore a groove in our heads.

Except for the cute mice and cheese graphics, there is one piece of content in this book: change happens. Expanded mildly with ‘adapt or die.’

I checked the customer reviews at Amazon to see if I remembered wrong; apparently there was also a full-size hardcover version, to which little people of some sort (trolls? dwarves?) had been added.

As usual now for me, I read the bad reviews. They kind of confirmed the paucity of content. One reviewer even listed chapter titles: “Change Happens,” “Anticipate the Change,” “Monitor Change,” “Adapt to Change Quickly,” “Change,” “Enjoy Change!,” and “Be Ready to Quickly Change Again and Again.”

Several reviewers pointed out that the imperative Adapt to Change! sent to underlings by middle managers was an easy copout for the managers – it seemed to blame the employees and hold them responsible for changing, regardless of whether the change was a good choice.

Other than that, the idea that people should be prepared, especially in the current rapid-change technology era, to keep reinventing themselves, is one I already passed on to my children: jobs where the skills and knowledge you acquire in college will serve you for the rest of your working life are no longer there. Instead, I told the kids they should expect to re-educate themselves and make significant changes every five years or so, as their jobs were automated – or passed on to lower-skilled workers. Or simply disappeared.

Change in the writing world

The same applies to writing.

Actual writing skills haven’t changed – though people have adjusted to reading on their cellphones, and to shorter chapters (a la James Patterson), or information in smaller chunks. The idea of self-publishing and choosing whether you want to be in control of the process – or cede everything except the initial writing to agents and publishers (assuming you tickle their fancy and they even offer), and letting them have the lion’s share of the profits – HAS changed writing.

Writers are learning to deal with change, and the indies are adapting in many cases much more quickly than the digital sides of the giant publishers (which are often acting like the mentioned middle-managers, and expecting the writers to accept change in the form of draconian contract terms, and rights grabs from the publishers for longer and longer periods of time).

Writers are creating their own changes, trying new venues and new marketing techniques, moving their own goals, listening to other writers, and trying innovative ideas to publicize their writing.

Fear of change

It is scary until you get the hang of it; then the IDEA of it isn’t scary any more, just the details: if you write and self-publish, you will be in control of deciding where in the maze your cheese should be. And you will need to keep moving that cheese yourself.

VG offered me serialization on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, in 1000 to 1200 word chunks. No strings attached – I will retain all my rights.

The scary part: I wouldn’t be making the decision I have been working so hard to implement – how to begin and end my scenes and chapters, where the best places to break and switch to a new part of the story (possibly from the pov of a different character). And the ‘episodes’ would now be labeled by someone else, someone with less understanding of the carefully-constructed whole of Pride’s Children which lives in my head – because he won’t even know where the story is going until I send it to him. HE is taking ME on faith.

I thought about it for a short while, did some basic research on the site, liked what I saw. I checked out some of the other writers serializing both finished and unfinished work, and was impressed. More than that, the category I write, mainstream, was featured on their site – something missing from many of the other places for unpublished writers (such as Wattpad).

I discovered that Caleb Pirtle, III, the man offering me this opportunity, has written and published, mostly traditionally, SIXTY books.

I moved – fast

I moved my cheese. I moved, literally. He suggested I should have a cover image because the serials work better that way – I sent the placeholder I have on my blog, and spent the whole next day making a much better one, and sending that to him. I sent new written material for the description.

I started rearranging my mental furniture: to keep up (and not dig into my emergency buffer), I will now have to produce 3000-3600 words of POLISHED, finished text every week, on average, until I’m done. Of course this helps me: in return for access to the larger number of visitors their site attracts, I made a commitment to a slightly larger output. This means I will have to find and plug the holes in my system, the ones which help me waste time, because I can no longer afford them.

It doesn’t sound like that much, 500 words a day, two double-spaced pages – unless you’ve read one of my many posts about my ‘process’ – which I’m starting to fine-tune. I’ve been slow – and I can’t afford to be quite that slow any more.

But in return, I get an impetus to finish my novel as efficiently as possible – because there’s already a place waiting for it that’s not just MY blog. I get to keep to my original schedule: have all three volumes in the finished story done by publishing time, 9/10/14, when I can publish. (Crosses fingers tightly.)

I’m really looking forward (gulp) to kicking the game up a notch. I moved my own cheese (and ran into LUCK – a major factor in success) because I knew I was having motivation problems when the only one really waiting to finish was me (and my lovely beta reader, Rachel).

I am not planning to disappoint. And any time my head is actually working, I will be writing. I hope that’s all it takes – but I strongly suspect that’s true.

The first two episodes at VG are already up. If you’ve been reading Pride’s Children here, it will be a while before they catch up over there; I’ll think about that when it happens.

Wish me luck!

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3 thoughts on “I moved my cheese: expanding my writer’s goals

  1. Circe

    Sending you wishes for good energy (I mean that literally, but good vibes can’t hurt either) and good luck! You will succeed, but not by luck alone. Your determination and desire will pull you along, as always.

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