This spring, as friends realized I was in my final semester, I was bombarded with “What are you going to do with your degree?” And with an English degree in particular, it’s a perpetual question, especially for the younger generation who have to justify why they aren’t majoring in something that leads directly to a particular career. (Although sitting nicely in our rows of black caps and gowns, watching Master’s candidates receive their hoods, three of us writing friends pondered a worse question: “What do you do with a Philosophy degree?”)
My answer is always “Write, of course!” But I’ve been writing for 30 years, writing seriously for the last 15. What’s different now?
I like to say I’ll be putting on my professional writer’s hat. Not just write when I feel like it, or write a little each day, or work on a short story to submit, or write an article for the newspaper, but set out a professional plan and work towards it. This is a career, not just a hobby. And somehow the degree, added to the critiques given and received in our workshop sessions, has boosted my confidence that I can do this, that my writing is good enough. (Hmm, is that “the degree has boosted” or “the degree and critiques have boosted?”)
So after all the hoopla of graduation and three lovely extra weeks with my mother, here’s the basic plan:
- Launch my middle grade novel, Through the Shimmer of Time, late this summer or early fall, depending on how timing works with our Ireland trip. I’m currently working on a “brief” for a cover designer and doing editing tweaks in a final run-through. (See, I really did keep my promise to start my professional life on Monday!) The book has been basically done for two years, but I just haven’t had time to do anything with it.
- Develop a Women’s Fiction novel with the characters and situation from a short story I wrote two semesters ago. I’m going through Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering again, plus using other sources for additional insights on beat sheets, and I’ll do character sketches/scenes to get to know these folks better. If it falls into place at the right time, I may crank out a rough draft for National Novel Writing Month in November. If not, I’ll just work my own timetable.
- Blog regularly. It’s creative, it keeps me connected to readers, and sometimes even gives me a place to vent! Once a week for now, but eventually heading toward three posts a week on specific days. Look for life happenings, random deep thoughts, occasional snorts of humor, some writing tips, and a few more book reviews.
Down the road, or even betwixt and between these main goals, I’d like to rework some of my essays and submit them to journals, and maybe one of the short stories, too. Shimmer may get a sequel, but I’ll need a brainstorming session for plot possibilities first. And my last “completed” NaNo novel (2009) had a thread worth pursuing if I want to do more with children’s books. As it is, though, I’m rather hooked on women’s issues and relationships right now, and more ideas keep popping into my head. Nooo! Stop! I don’t have time for more ideas! Hmm, “write it down and forget about it” seems like a motto I should adopt.
So there you have it. A plan of steady work, but no tight production schedule (I am trying to keep my sanity intact, you know). What about you? What sort of plans have you made after achieving a career/life goal? If you’re a writer, what’s in store for you during the second half of this year?