If you want to have a career as a writer (and to keep it once you have it), you need to think about both the long term (which requires strategy) and short term (which requires tactics).
On the Campaign site, Dave Trott writes an interesting post about this, with the example of the German general, Rommel, who was a brilliant tactician. Trott points out that the German army won the early stages of the war because it had excellent tactics, and lost over the long run partly because it lacked a coherent strategy.
THE IMPORTANCE OF STRATEGY
As a writer, some of the elements you want to think about in terms of strategy include:
- Which genre do you want to work in?
- Which formats you want to master (film, TV, transmedia)?
- What kind of support team you want to build as your career expands (agent, researcher, admin assistant, etc.)?
It’s also useful to think about your strategy when you see big changes coming in your realm. For instance, writers need to be aware of huge changes taking place in publishing and TV and film.
My personal example: in light of Hollywood’s increased commitment to huge budget special-effects movies, I’ve stopped pitching ideas or writing spec scripts for that market and started looking toward micro-budget and low-budget films made for distribution via the internet. At the moment I’m exploring enhanced ebooks and transmedia. My guess is that this is where there are going to be major opportunities for writers to have creative control over their work and—eventually—make serious money.
THE IMPORTANCE OF TACTICS
Tactics are about adapting to and taking advantage of opportunities as they come up. For instance:
- Where are the opportunities for you to improve your skills right now?
- Where are the opportunities for you to get produced right now?
- What’s going on now that you could use to promote yourself?
- What is the best use of your time today?
Here are some tactical examples from my own experience:
Not having any contacts in Hollywood, I started a newsletter and used that to get to interview major players in the TV and film business.
- When one of my plays got bad reviews (but a good audience response), I took out an ad in Variety that said: “The critics are unanimous!” I didn’t mention they were unanimously negative.
- When I saw that a particular publisher was starting a new lifestyles imprint, I contacted the editor via email and pitched an idea to her. They have since published three books by me. Two of them are in their second editions and one of them has more than a dozen foreign editions.
I suggest that once a week or so you take fifteen minutes to review your tactics; once a month take time to go over your strategies and check whether your tactics are supporting your strategy—or whether you may need to adjust your strategy.
These are just a few of the ideas I’ll be sharing in week 5 of my Raindance Script Coach Series. I invite you to join me and let’s figure out how you can make in impression in the crowded marketplace.