Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Planning for the Big Event: What Weddings and Writing Require

By Debbie Kaufman

I was my own wedding planner, not something that I would ever recommend that you do yourself if you can avoid it. My husband and I paid for, planned, and arranged all but the small reception afterwards. My dear Aunt Frances stepped in and offered to take care of the cake and punch reception, an offer we gladly accepted.

It wasn't until I started the planning process that I realized what kind of a committment I was making to the event itself. I'd thought about the committment I was making to the man that I loved, but to the wedding itself, not really. Who knew that there were so many details and decisions surrounding a twenty minute ceremony? Dealing with the invitations alone was enough to invoke a migraine. What kind of paper, color of paper (really, how many shades of white and ivory are there?)font style, font color, wording, type of envelope, and, of course, how many to order. Don't even get me started on what's involved in creating the guest list. So many details when all I wanted to do was walk down the aisle looking beautiful, make and hear promises of eternal love, and be pronounced married. Instead, I was forced to make a decision and be knowledgeable about everything including what utensil to use for cutting the wedding cake.

The whole process strongly resembles my decision to embark on a writing career. I'd considered the committment I was making to the stories I wanted to tell, but to the union of manuscript and publication, not really. Frankly, what I've learned is that it's not just about writing a great story, it's also about all the details before, during and after writing a great story. It's that attention to detail that gets the manuscript to publication. Fortunately, while I can't afford a publicist and don't yet have an agent, there is still the internet. Boy, wish we'd had that when I was planning my wedding.

So, instead of invitations and utensils, now I immerse myself in manuscript formats, the proper approach to query letters, agent and editor research, which on-line classes to take, which blogs to follow (so many great ones, so little time), and a host of other details. Just like wedding planning, and the married life afterward, approaching writing as a career is not for sissies. You've got to be committed without losing site of your objective.

So, I've struck a balance. I spend a limited amount of time each week working on the planning details. Consider just one aspect of this planning - the realm of contests. For me, this means that I've researched contests to enter and usually choose them based not only the quality of the feedback I'll receive, but also on the agent or editor that will see my work if I make the finals. This involves taking the research one step further to learn more about the agent or editor. I think this is important because, although I do want to be published, I want to be smart about it and find the right home for my story and the right person, one I would be comfortable working with long-term. So I google them, I read blogs where they have been a guest. I learn all I can before I choose to put my work in front of this person. And then I pay my fee, follow ALL the contest rules, and hope for a good response.
And, I plan for the eventuality of a negative response. After all, details are important...

Now, there's more to my planning than this. I carefully consider online classes, I blog for a bit of pre-published publicity, I'm working on a website (Okay, my daughter is working on a website for me since I'm designed challenged), and I regularly attend my local Georgia Romance Writer's meetings. There's a lot to learn in the writing business. When it all comes together for me, I don't want to just publish a manuscript, I want to go all in and make the committment to writing as a business. I don't want my manuscript to be the blushing bride, but one that makes an editor stand up and take notice. The one that stands out from all the others they've recently read, and I'm willing to do what it takes for that to happen.

What about you? What have you committed to do or to learn about the business of writing?

(All photo images copyrighted and used with permission of Onesixphotography.com)

19 comments:

Sandy Elzie said...

Good morning Debbie,

Great comparison between planning a wedding and publishing a book. You could also compare the long-term marriage to a long-term writing career...hum, I see another post coming down the road. (g)

Last weekend Stephanie Bond said to put our work out to five editors or agents a week. After all, if I send my work to 50 places versus just 5, by chances are obviously better. Of course, before that, I need to make my manuscript it's very best. Like planning that perfect wedding & reception, it takes time and patience and work.

Sandy

Tami Brothers said...

I never thought of writing and weddings quite this way, but you are so right. Talk about nerve wracking.

I am thankful my husband's mother and sisters took over the wedding planning for me. All I had to worry about was the dress and the invitations. It was a fun event.

But now I'm thinking my writing career is making up for that. I can't ask my mother-in-law for help (other than to read my work - which she does!). So I will definitely take your advise and think hard before I take on-line classes and decide who to send my WIP to.

And thanks, Sandy, for the reminder from Stephanie Bond's workshop. I need to get on that!!!

Debbie Kaufman said...

Morning Sandy: I really love Stephanie Bond's workshops because she always deals with the practical aspects of the business.

Hey Tami: Wouldn't it be nice if someone did the planning in this venue for us :)

Marilyn Baron said...

Great post Debbie. I can see the similarities between planning a wedding and launching a publishing career. I was lucky my mother did most of my wedding planning (with the help of a florist named Eldon)

Where is Eldon when I need him?

I love the pictures on your post.

Marilyn Baron

Debbie Kaufman said...

Marilyn: Yes, we all need our own Eldon! BTW, if anyone is planning a Georgia wedding, the deal on flowers at the DeKalb Farmers Market is awesome!

Oh, and as for pictures for my post. It helps to know the photographer! The bride in the pond is one of my favorite images.

Maxine Davis said...

Debbie,

Great post. I really enjoyed it. Writings and Weddings, hm-m-m. Yep, they are both time consuming and brain warping.

What am I committed to? Getting this manuscript finished by September. For some that may seem like a piece of (wedding) cake, but for me, it's hard work, but I love it and I love the possible result.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Go Maxine! You'll definitely be ready to pitch at Moonlight and Magnolias in October. Go girl!

Susan May said...

Your right. Wedding require planning and so does a writing career. If you want both to go well you have to apply time and energy to both. Nice post, Debbie.

Stephanie J said...

Great post, Debbie! I can't say that I can relate to the wedding planning since I'm unmarried but there are so many things about pursuing a writing career that I didn't realize when I embarked on this adventure. I look back on myself and I'm amazed at how good I thought I was when I started out versus how much I now know I actually have to learn... ::sigh::

And heck, that's even before the actual process of learning about querying, m/s formatting, etc!

Sally Kilpatrick said...

Debbie,

You just hit upon what I was thinking last night. My dear hubby started reading my WIP and made several shrewd suggestions. They were all correct, but my face fell. He felt bad, and I had to tell him not to mind me, I'm just frustrated that I can't seem to get it right no matter how hard I try.

So I guess I'm committed to finishing and polishing my story. Your analogy is so apt because I'm in love with telling stories (a marriage made in heaven), but revision is dragging me down (the wedding, or is it welding? of the story)

Thanks for the food for thought!
Sally

Nicki Salcedo said...

Great post, Debbie. I think the "not for sissies" part is absolutely right. As for commitments, I'm over committed. I need to focus more on writing and less on the tasks around writing. You know those people who only focus on the wedding...they don't think about what the marriage will be like. I don't want to be one of those.

Monthly GRW meeting really get me energized. I just spoke to one of my critique partners and she's written every day since hearing Stephanie Bond. That is commitment. Thanks, Debbie! May your manuscript never be the blushing bride on the editor's desk (but rather the bridezilla?) :)

Anna Steffl said...

Excellent post.

I'm committed to being more aggressive once I get the manuscript ready (thanks also to S. Bond's advice).

Ana Aragón said...

Hi, Debbie,

Great post! I never thought to compare the two, but sure glad you did.

Mom took care of the details of the wedding (I gave her a month) and I made my dress. Thankfully, the wedding went off without a hitch, and the finishing touches on the dress were completed the night before.

Needless to say, my writing routine is very similar...by the seat of my pants and barely making deadline. That's because I go over and over the manuscript, just like I did my dress, wanting to make it the most perfect creation ever!

Thank goodness for deadlines, right?

Have a great week!

Ana

Linsey Lanier said...

Debbie,

Some great advice here and a good analogy. The difference, IMO, is that after the wedding, the party is over and fades into a memory, while if you keep writing, there's always a new project ahead. :)

Stephanie's advice hit home to a lot of us, I think. I need to get on that submission stuff, too. But I am primarily committed to creating the best books I can. That, too is a lifelong endeavor. Definitely not for sissies.

Linsey

Debbie Kaufman said...

Linsey, I agree about Stephanie's advice hitting home. So basic and yet we forget it so easily.

Ana: I'm betting you are as proud of those manuscripts as you were of that dress!

Go Anna! Do you have specific goals? It helps.

Hi Nicki: Bridezilla, hmmm? Well it does get the ratings and is certainly noticed.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Hey Sally: I know what you mean. Sometimes I feel like I never stop learning just within one manuscript. I wish I could be a little more oblivious so I could just finish.

Hey Stephanie: I was the same way. I am no amazed at how much I didn't know. And scared about how much I probably still don't.

Hey Susan: Absolutely. Now could I just stop finding myself short of time and energy?

Dianna Love said...

Debbie - Wonderful comparison to planning an event with the understanding it means a very long, very dedicated commitment. I see so many writers fade at the first, second or third set back. A good marriage depends on dedication to get through the unknown and inevitable difficult times that everyone will face at some point.

To expect any less of a journey to publishing would be naive. I like how you are looking long term with regard to your writing career.

When I started writing, I decided I would try to learn something new about the craft and this business every day. I still feel that way and look at it as an ongoing growth arc as a writer.

Sally - you have a good husband who takes your writing serious enough to be honest, which means he believes you can write it better. He doesn't doubt that you'll know what to do with his feedback. He knows you are gifted and can turn his feedback into magic.

Debbie - as for being scared about what we probably still don't know - that's what makes this such a great adventure. :) I never cease to enjoy learning something new about telling a good story. At the end of the day, that's all a reader cares about.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Hey Dianna: Thanks for stopping by today. I love what I keep learning everytime I get to one of your Break Into Fiction sessions.

Mary Marvella said...

Lots of good points, Debbie. It speaks to me as much as Stephanie did Saturday, and she was practically reading my mind.

Good job!