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Devourer of Words 033: A Writer’s Resolutions

Marc Bernardin

I don’t know about you guys, but the end of every year prompts me to do two things: 1) collapse in a heap of exhaustion after the inevitable sprint from Thanksgiving to January 1st and 2) begin to make plans for the year on the horizon. So this is my 2016 To Do List.

Spend Some Time in the Files

If you’re anything like me, you’ve got at least one folder on your computer that holds every fragment of an idea you’ve ever had. From one-sentence loglines to wisps of dialogue to fully formed proposals to partially completed scripts to entire novels that you just didn’t think worked. Now’s the time to go back through and look at all of it. See what’s in there that you still like. Revisit what you’ve forgotten about. A story problem that you couldn’t solve in the past might reveal itself to you with fresh eyes. Perhaps “old you” can inspire today’s you. Good writers use “every part of the buffalo”—an idea I had 10 years ago has been the spring from which I’ve drawn a feature screenplay and two separate TV pilots, and I’m now refitting for a comics project. No idea is ever dead.

Examine Your Obligations

A thing that is hard for us writers to do is say no. We’ve spent so much time trying to break in, trying to get through the door, that once we’re inside, we say yes to everything that comes down the pike. But too much of a good thing can lead to over-extension, which is the death knell for a burgeoning career. Over-commitment leads to blown deadlines, which will absolutely poison the well for the people you’ve worked so hard to gain the attention of. Look at what you’ve already committed to doing, do the math and figure out how much you can conceivably accomplish, and then see how much time you’ve got left over.

Look at the Calendar and Strategize

For everything there is a season, including pitching. Look at the convention calendar and figure out which ones will have the editors you’d like to meet and see if you can get there. Understand that pitching those same editors via email while they’re at a con—especially a con like CCI—is futile, as their entire brain pan is occupied with planning to attend said con. Keep an eye on social media to see when Marvel and DC are holding their retreats, as that’s another time when decision-makers are otherwise occupied. Try to find the sweet spots, avoiding major holidays, and begin to prepare yourself and your materials.

Pick Two Things to Write Just for Yourself

I know, it’s a little hard to justify that, given that we work in a commercial medium and the smart money is on writing things that can make you money—and much of your time should be spent doing that. And yet, it’s important to write a thing that scares you a bit, that challenges you, that pushes you beyond your comfort zone. Conversely, write something you know you’ll be able to finish. Something that feels like driving with the top down. Not that you’re phoning it in, but rather than charting a new course, use it to work out the kinks. Improve your time.

So, hey, have a great holiday and good luck in the New Year.

Marc Bernardin’s Devourer of Words appears the third Tuesday of every month here on Toucan!