Monday, 30 January 2012

Guest Post: Lee McAulay - Where Will You Be in Ten Year's Time?

I recently fired up an old PC to rescue a novel from a zip disk, and in doing so I discovered a lot of old web links from ten or eleven years ago, saved onto the disk along with my novel. Reading through these has given me a lot to think about. 

I thought about the ten years since I downloaded those links - life events, changes online and in the real world, successes and failures and other experiences. I looked at my meagre achievements as a writer.

And I began to think ten years ahead.

Last year, I wrote twenty short stories, one novella, one-and-a-half novels. I built a new blog up to fifty pages and had an article and a book review published in a niche magazine.

I work a full-time job. Last year I had an allotment garden and a hobby which took me away from home for a couple of weekends and occupied my spare time in the evenings and weekends for months beforehand.

I didn't write nearly as much as I hoped. But I planned my writing around work, around the allotment, around the rest of my life including holidays and family visits and friends and exercise and learning new stuff.

And I wrote.

My output last year wasn't prolific. Far from it.

However, I now have a suite of products up for sale on Amazon and via Smashwords to a number of international markets. I have publication credits in a print magazine. If I produce as much this year, I'll double the size of my suite. I'll also have a little planetary system of stories in the same universe. Two universes, in fact.

In ten years time, if I keep up the same leisurely pace of production and nothing else changes, I'll have
  • ten novels
  • ten novellas
  • two hundred short stories
  • ten non-fiction booklets
  • an as-yet-unplanned number of variety packs - novels+novellas, novels+shorts, twin novel packs, themed packs, character packs, etc. which add up to at least another hundred products
  • a 500-post blog

If I'd started this ten years ago, at this pace, even with all the life issues that cropped up in those years, how would that body of work make me feel?

Rather chuffed, I can tell you.

Never mind the state of publishing, the crisis of the internet, the downfall of western civilisation. Ignore it, and look at that body of work. I want to be able to look back in ten years and see that list with my name against it.

What does your ten-year plan look like?

http://leemcaulay.wordpress.com/

5 comments:

Dan Holloway said...

Ah, yes, Lenin's great bequest to the world, the five-year-plan. Absolutely I have those, and update them on a regular basis. Two things I'd ad to my enthusiasm for planning:

1. I like the balance of this piece - it's very easy to look back and think "if I'd been doing this for x years I'd have achieved y by now" and for that to deflate you, make you think there's no point starting at all - but the flip side is that if you start now, it's amazing how soon you can build up something significant. John Bird, founder of The Big Issue and all-around Good Thing, advocates what he calls the 3% rule - set out to achieve 3% of your overall target, removing the sense of daunting unachievability, and very soon you end up achieving a huge amount.

2. Plans need to be flexible. For the first time ever this year I've made it my pan not to have a plan but to "play" - to forget completely about the commercial side of writing and experiment with form and subject and push myself in new directions to see what's out there - rather like Danny Wallace's excellent "yes" project.

Karen said...

Yes, I do a five year plan too, but it's very flexible and I split it into three groups, what I'd like to achieve personally, what I'd like to achieve professionally and things I'd like to do/see. Even if I only achieve one thing from each group it's probably more than I'd have done without the plan.

madwippitt said...

Wow, I'm impressed! My 'proper' job allows me very flexible hours and I often wonder how normal people with fixed regular hours manage to fit everything in, let alone produce books as well. And an allotment is really time consuming!

Kathleen Jones said...

Very impressive - I'm afraid my ten year plan is just to stay alive and solvent (one does need to eat) long enough to write all the stuff whirling round in my head!!

Lee McAulay said...

Thanks for the comments, folks!
I know that some of us find the restrictions of a day job make it easier to stick to a plan - for example, I write during my lunch break, so I know I have to make a lunch I can eat with one hand (sandwich and/or fruit) so I can write with the other.
madwippitt - the allotment is history, I'm afraid, as it took too much time away from writing, or the other things which are displaced by writing (e.g. sleep/friends/food!). "To fit everything in" means re-defining "everything". I don't watch TV and don't go down the pub as often as I did ten years ago, for example.
And I'm fortunate that I have a very understanding and supportive partner. Both of us are affected by my writing. I hope that in future we both benefit, but that's out of my control. Only the wordcount-on-paper is mine to influence, and planning is part of that.
BTW, am I the only person who thinks "Crikey, that's a month of 2012 gone already and I have so much more to write?"