Like most religious Jews, I begin my day with dressing and praying. It’s thereafter that the differences between me and my mates are apparent.
Unlike the majority of my peers, I’m a full-time writer. Sure, I’m also a teacher, a mother, a grandmother, a wife, a friend, and a neighbor, but I barely interact with people during working hours as I have my face tuned to my screen, my hands positioned on my keyboard, and my focus locked on my projects.
Most days, I begin by reading my email. I catch up with publishers’ requests for modifications, with contract negotiations, with students’ submissions, with writers’ offerings (I edit for various venues), and with other, job-related correspondence. Looking over and answering my email can take up to three hours.
Thereafter, I stop and make sense of my previous night’s priority list. More often than not, before bed, I put together a new ranking so that I can be focused when I get back to work. Deadlines impact my ordering as do professional and personal needs. Serialized novels, weekly blogs, and collaborative work are among my most important activities. Plus, well-paying opportunities often get skipped ahead of lesser paying ones.
Further, when I take all of the demands on my time into account, if there are students or gatekeepers who call for my immediate response, those responses, too, get pushed toward the top of my queue. Rarely, though, when I’m in the midst of working on a book’s proofs, judging a writing contest, or teaching multiple courses, do I have time to actualize much else.
During lulls in my schedule, I engage in short undertakings. For instance, I update my submission charts for, respectively, individual poems, brief fictions, and short essays. I catch up with magazine editors, from whom I’ve not heard from for two or three months and tag book publishers, from whom I’ve not heard from, regarding complete manuscripts, for over a year (yes, Virginia, a significant part of publishing is waiting). Last, I submit any work that I’ve not yet offered.
Even when I use modifications of my existent templates, it can take me twenty minutes to write the cover letter for a short work or an hour to write the query letter for a book. For short works’ cover letters, I use one of several autobiographies I have on file (consider, that it’s unlikely that someone who publishes poetry will care about my collections of nonfiction, and that it’s unlikely that someone who accepts flash fictions will have an interest in my blogs or book-length assemblages of essays.) If I am a regular contributor to a venue, I make mention of that fact in my cover letter. Alternatively, if I am a frequent contributor, normally, I can refer to the lead editor by first name as well as can skip steps in the submission process.
For books’ query letters, I rely on files that I create for each title. Among the files I make for each book are: synopsis, chapter by chapter summary, comparisons of my book with similar publications, marketing plans, author information, and more.
When I’m invited me to write for publications, my cover letters are very different from the sort I use when merely submitting work for consideration. Yet, like my other communications, these letters are both cordial and respectful. They differ from the submissions covers in that they contain thanks rather than urging.
In short, each cover letters get shaped per: the addressee’s stated mission, my relationship with the gatekeeper, and the content of what I’m offering. As my undergraduate students would say, there’s a lot of rhetoric involved in getting published. Not only must writing be professional and be suitable to the publication/publishing house to which it’s sent, but the cover letter for each work must be meaningful to the decision-maker receiving it.
After completing time-sensitive work and small tasks, I write. Development of small bits can take days or weeks. Development of major pieces can take years. Rewriting is the heart of development, thus, I might revise any manuscript dozens of times.
Revision does not end with my sensibilities, however. Once a work, regardless of its length, is accepted for publication, it often requires extra redos. When completed correctly, books’ galley proofs can take weeks and short works’ edits can take days, including time spent communicating with publishers.
In view of that, invention gets short shrift, most days. It’s because I am fortunate to be busy rewriting accepted works that I have limited time to create new ones.
My compromise is to reserve blocks of hours, weekly, for creating. I pick from my folders of incomplete stories, incomplete poems, or incomplete essays during those blocks. While I likewise have a folder of incomplete novels (and even a trilogy I’ve been rehashing for nearly twenty years), large works get pushed aside until I find time that’s adequate for their specifications.
As a result, I usually work on novels during the summer since I teach less during that season. This past year, however, I was blessed with so many book contracts that during the period from May thru August (I’m still an academic at heart and consequently conceptualize the calendar according to a North American university schedule), I had to put off work on my trilogy. I’m glad to have such “problems,” but hope, next summer, to return to my grand project.
Beyond keeping up with rewrites, writing, and keeping up with correspondence, some per cent of each day’s hours goes to marketing. I have to push myself to advertise.
I’m not big on coercion. Moreover, I regard most “neutral” forms of persuasion as worse than unseemly. As the rock song says, “I know too much to go back and pretend.” After spending a few decades teaching students how to deconstruct claims and inviting academic colleagues to think about the power of discourse, I’m extremely uncomfortable promoting my work in what would be considered a typical manner.
More exactingly, I’d sooner talk about holidays on my Facebook page than about my latest book launches. What’s more, I’d rather issue invitations to Shabbot meals at my home than call my friends (or family) to tell them about my newest successes.
Between my scholarship on communication ethics and my understanding of mitzvot bein adam v’chavrusa, I see most of the popular, contemporary marketing strategies as objectionable. Nonetheless, I push myself to call attention to my work because it’s understood, within the publishing industry, that writers must do so.
Finally, I spend a small portion of each day reading. I have ezines and social media channels that I enjoy. Besides, certain fellow writers regularly share their work with me. Furthermore, I’ve discovered places from where I can download, for free, well-written genre pieces. In the same way, that I used to save my English, i.e. my easy, assignments, for the end of the day, when I was a student, at present, as a grandmother, who gets a bleary-brained around nightfall, I save my reading for late in my workday, too.
Regrettably, my workday does not end when I shut my eyes. Just as I dreamt about footnotes decades ago, when I was writing my dissertation, now and again, these days, I fall asleep or wake up to thoughts about writing.
I’ve drifted off envisioning: the tool bars on my social media pages, sections of manuscripts in progress, and those truly crummy, mercifully rare, submissions for which I have to fashion constructive comments. Although swimming, walking, and weight lifting, or making two or three-dimensional art helps to clear my brain, none of those activities work if I forget to engage in them.
BH, my hours are full. Daily, I write, revise, edit, assess, and complete many publishing-related duties. I put much effort into my work and I appreciation for the chance to do so.
* Note: this blog won’t appear during Mo’ed.