Focusing on Writing

What I’ve learned about writing productively is it all comes down to focusing on my goals, and writers can’t possibly do that effectively without actually being aware of what their goals actually are.  Think of it like trying to stuff an arrow down the barrel of a gun and then trying to shoot at a target that’s not just moving but camouflaged.  And invisible.  With feathers.

I spent about 6 years working on three different novels that never went anywhere, largely because I wasn’t focusing on what it takes to get a novel published.  I wasn’t making regular efforts to revise, edit, sift through a list of agents who represent what I write, or build an effective query.  Instead, I was making regular efforts to hit about three blog posts a week, participate in a weekly online flash fiction group, and stay up to date with regular blog/comment debates on topics including current film, reincarnation, life after death, and how strongly I believe that The Great Gatsby is overrated.

Writing, for me, largely comes down to immediate versus delayed gratification. Do I want to make it from 4,000 to 5,000 blog followers or 100 likes on my next post? Do I want to stay current with political debates with idiots from my Class of ’80 in hopes I can convince them which way to lean in November? Do I want to spend an hour carving out the perfect 100 words for a picture prompt? Do I want the accolades of how perfectly the dialogue in my 100 words showed fear in the hearts of villagers who find a blood-stained canoe on an empty beach?

Or, do I want my daughter, who works at Barnes and Noble, to tell me how a customer brought a book to the register, handed it to her, and she said, “Oh, my father wrote that”?

For the past four weeks I’ve been revising one novel while an agent crawls through a different one in order to give me some valuable feedback in order to improve the novel she accepted. Eight weeks ago she said she’d get back to me in six weeks, which is why I’ve been on edge for the past two weeks.  I haven’t written a blog post in two months, and only today did I take another shot at flash fiction, which I hadn’t done in over a year.  I haven’t had over ten views a day on my blog this past year, even though a few years ago I averaged ten views an hour and once had over 700 in one day.

But if I’m going to finally get a novel published, then this is exactly where I want to be.

BTW – the Barnes and Noble thing actually happened.




After spending over 25 years teaching literature and writing, Rich Voza now writes for himself. Publishing credits include one novel and 13 short stories published through Whiskey Creek Press. Two novels are in revision and one is somewhere on an agent’s desk. On a good day, he’s listening to baseball on the radio while emptying a cooler of beer on the beach. On a bad day, his kids are bugging him to pick up sushi.

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