Friday, November 18, 2011

Focus Friday: Making a List, Checking it Twice

Have you ever made a list of everything you've ever written?

Well, I haven't.

At least not yet - but I'm in the process of making that list, and checking it twice right now. Ho, ho, ho, my deadline is Dec. 25th. Merry Christmas to Me.

Spending a few minutes each day, I'm cataloging each polished manuscript, computer file, and/or work-in-progress. The excel file currently is about 3 pages long, and I'm only on the letter M in terms of titles. Eesh. I write a lot. I've been doing this for about a week now during my self-allowed "break" time.

Am I a masochist? No.

I knew this needed to be done when I began assembling packets for agents, and writing query letters. Those of you who are picture book authors know how difficult it can be to land an agent. To make sure I stand out (because we all also know you only get one shot per agent, and don't want to muck it up), I realized I needed to know EXACTLY what was (and wasn't) in my body of work.

How many stories have I really published? Written? How many are actually in shape and, if an agent requested, I'd hit the send button on TODAY? How many are picture books? Board books? Short stories? Rhyming? Middle grade? Young Adult? I can guess, but that doesn't sound professional.

I need these answers if I want to understand who I am as a writer, and pitch that to an agent. Though this process is really tedious, it's absolutely essential for a writer like me who writes across genres and age groups. My excel file has everything from keywords to target age to whether or not the piece has ever been submitted and in what year I began writing it (and the year it was finished). There is also a column for "Status," which is my subjective indication on whether or not the piece is ready to be seen by an agent or editor, if it's a draft, or simply unfinished.

For the record, I am not including "story ideas" or character sketches that haven't been turned into actual stories yet. Ideas remain scrabbled in a notebook on my bookshelf and for the time being, will stay there. They don't count yet :) (Thank goodness, or I'd have at least 70 more catalog items). I'm also not counting anything that is very, very unfinished (I found one story where I had written about three sentences) - those are being labeled as "ideas" also for now.

So, I ask again - have you ever made a list of everything you've ever written? Let me know! Then, let me know if you're "checking it twice," like my next step - I'm prioritizing a revision schedule. Unless I know what I've got, how do I know what I want to make with it?

All in all, this process is the way in which I can be clear about my body of work with an agent. Saying I have 7 polished picture books, for example, is more concrete than "I have written dozens of picture books, and several are final drafts" doesn't cut it. I want to have titles, keywords, and word counts right there. I'm even considering sending a "body of work" spreadsheet file with an agent submission. Anyone ever done that?

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