Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Forget the Resolutions! Enroll in the Novel Writers' (Mock) University

This is the time of year when I usually want to hide from the resolution chatter. Personally, I don't "do" resolutions, but it's hard not to think and dream about what I would like to happen. Like:

1. Finish my novel.
2. Submit my novel.
3. Sell my novel.

Okay, I usually skip to the third item.

Well, actually that's being harsh. Last year I made it to the second step, so 2 out of 3 of those "what I'd like to happen" items at the end of the year two years ago did happen. Follow me? I'm not sure I do, but I think I'm saying it's been a dry spell. For a while now, it's been hard to keep my writing a priority in the face of other obligations. It's been hard to keep the faith that writing is what I do; my identity and not just something I tried.

But...I did get a lot done this year and completed three semesters of college courses; spring, summer and fall. Quite a full year. Yep, I managed to follow my course syllabus and complete the assigned tasks. I had to do those things, but this is better than it sounds. Even though I might be the one paying, it was my job. That's better than it sounds, too. That's the thing about a JOB. Even though you might wonder -- why am I here in this job I didn't dream about -- there is the validation of knowing others aren't going to question the sense of why you do what you do every day. It's your job.

Writing without a paycheck (for now) isn't quite the same, which is why it's vitally important to make what we do have equal weight with what others see as a traditional job. Because no matter how thick our skin is, it won't be thick enough if we don't give that to ourselves.

So, for now my job is going to school, and being a mom (another poor paying job), but writing should not be moved down on the list of valid occupations. But how? If only I had a syllabus for writing my novel...that document that I can sneak in with the rest...

Hey! Why not? Actually this "light bulb moment" came to me recently, but after further thought, I put it aside as one of my "ideas" that wasn't coming together as workable. There were a few mind block obstacles to get past that meant I quickly shot it down.

First, there's the structure of a syllabus. Dates. Ick. And knowing exactly what goes with the dates. Uhm, I don't know exactly what goes with what until I get to it. A linear structure? -- read chapter one, two, three, etc. of the required text. Nah.

The syllabus idea lost its fizzle but not its appeal for reaching an objective. Not knowing where to go with it, I put it aside and came up with my "Scene by Scene Milestones Charted the Gin Rummy Way." No dates and flexible!

Little did I know, or admit it at the time (funny how last week seems longer ago!), but this was laying the groundwork for my syllabus. I simply fooled myself into collecting the data for my "lesson plan." But I also realized I needed dates. Without the dates, I would be like any other student who found themselves at finals week scrambling to play catch-up.

So, I drafted my syllabus -- with dates. I went with the standard 16 week semester of my University. My spring semester starts January 10 and ends April 29. Wow, that doesn't seem very long, does it? Just think how much can and will be accomplished!

Next, I tackled the linear aspect of a syllabus. I thought hard about this and decided a compromise could be working ahead, BUT the assigned tasks did have to be completed on due dates.

And what are the assigned tasks? They are each of the scenes on my Scene by Scene Milestones chart, broken up according to my estimate of length to complete according to rating. In a way, this is my "required text." Thinking of it that way, the Milestones are a pre-requisite or almost part of another course. And because I'm jumping into this class at a revision stage, I came up with some "mock" course names -- just for the fun of it.

Writing 1020: Novel Plot & Scene Framework
Writing 2020: Novel Revision I
Writing 3020: Novel Revision II & Submission for Publication

This spring semester I'm taking Writing 2020. (I already took Writing 1020, of course! It took a couple of years, but that's because I didn't follow the syllabus. LOL)

Next, some other syllabus items (for Writing 2020) got added, included a Course Objective, Required Texts, Class Time and Location. A time to report to class is important and attendance will be taken. (As for location, this class is held in building HB110 -- otherwise known as Home Base, first floor!)


Here is my filled in Syllabus. Yes, it is rather a "do it yourself" kind of University, but worth every penney! Really.
I "imagine" the Due for Discussion" assignment due dates as a "lab working session," such as with a critique group. Of course, there isn't one, but if there were, you'd want to be prepared!
I did give myself a bit of a head start with the work done on the beginning scenes, but this is the advantage of getting the syllabus in advance. Now on to the rest!

Oh, and of course this is a Five Credit class. That's why due dates are on Sundays, but psst! -- if you're done you don't have to do anything.

So, although I have 18 credits coming up for "real" classes this spring semester (added American Lit before 1865) this one seems pretty darn real too.

Next summer I will take the class Writing 3020. :)

So how about you? Feel like taking a class?

2 comments:

  1. Oooh, I love the pic of the winter trees! I'm looking out on a similar vista, which is nice since I'm not out in it right now.

    I love your syllabus but it's too much work for me! LOL One thing that has always appealed to me about writing is the freedom. I like that I can stay up til 2 or 3 a.m. to finish revisions, or I can get up at the crack of dawn and start drafting something while I'm waiting on the coffee to finish brewing.

    I also love that each of us can find the method that works best for us, and can change it depending on our circumstances. I can totally see where this would work great for you and your school schedule.

    I did some seasonal retail work the past few weeks, and I managed to sneak in some writing or brainstorming during lunch breaks, or when I had 10 or 15 minutes before I left for work. Surprisingly, a lot can get accomplished that way!

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  2. Donna,

    Yes, isn't the picture pretty? I felt like redecorating and I was tempted to go with a spring background, but winter is pretty too.

    I'm with you 100% on the appeal of freedom for writing! Unfortunately, when I look at how much I accomplish with that freedom, I know I need structure or some form of accountability. Whether I like it is another thing! LOL

    It is amazing how much you can get done in a short time. I usually think I need a warm up to get going with writing, but sometimes I get ideas down I'd be bound to forget otherwise.

    Thanks so much for stopping by. You're keeping me motivated. :) I see I have a quite a few followers and if you're out there I don't mean to scare you away!

    Happy New Year!

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