The Five Year Plan

Hi folx,

I had a small writing epiphany a few weeks ago and thought I’d share it with you. Back in 2015 during my first semester of my MFA, a professor made us do an exercise where we wrote down our next ten writing projects (not just a short story, but long, full projects). At the time, I scoffed at this exercise, not because I didn’t believe in thinking ahead but because I always had projects in the works and too many on the back burner.

So I continued my writing life not really considering the implications of what the professor had said. I kept writing and planning and even wrote my eleventh novel, which was way better than all the previous novels, to the point I’m currently searching for agents.

Of course, when querying, one must face the fact that this novel might get trunked. An agent might not see the potential that keeps you up at night from sheer excitement.

Around this same time, I discovered the podcast “Get to Work Hurley!” by Kameron Hurley. I’m not sure which episode it was, but Hurley said something to the effect of “I start planning about five years out when it comes to writing a novel.”

The slow fear that had been building as my agent rejection list grew revealed itself: I didn’t have another novel. Yes, I had ideas, and I had about 25k of an initial draft of another novel, but I was just playing around on the page. This new novel was just a baby and I still really hadn’t gotten past the research stage. Frankly, I’m not even sure if the story will grow into a novel or just be a weird idea.

Which would mean I would be back at the thinking stage and have no new novel to query.

Hurley’s comment and my professor’s writing exercise clicked into place. It took me eighteen months to write my novel. If I cut some unnecessary breaks that I took for reasons, then it took a year. It only took a year because most of my research had already been done. A lot of the thinking/planning stage had happened earlier, too.

If I were to start a novel from scratch right now, it would take three years. If I was at the professional level and considering publishing, then it would take five years, adding two years for publishing.

This epiphany has  definitely changed my outlook for my early career (I use that word lightly). Instead of thinking in projects as start>finish lines, I’m thinking in layers. As I work on my weird little baby of a novel that might never grow to completion, I’m daydreaming about a shortish urban fantasy novel and researching a science fantasy epic. I’m revising a novella and writing short stories on a specific theme so they might grow into a collection. And I’m querying a few agents a month.

Well, there’s my epiphany. Stay bright, y’all!

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