What’s Your Plan B? (or “After 100 Agents, what?”)

We don’ need no stinkin’ Plan Bs

“I plan on becoming an internationally renowned brain surgeon.”
“That’s great. Except you’re a straight D student, you have essential tremor, and anybody who really wants to become a brain surgeon would know enough to call it ‘neurosurgeon’. So what’s your Plan B?

Plan B. The fallback. The backup. The “what you do when what you want doesn’t happen.”

I’ve always had trouble with the concept of a Plan B.

It was as if somewhere in my teens I said to myself, “Let’s see… I can do well in school, go to college, get a degree and lead a totally mundane, boring, completely unfulfilled life. Or I can become a superhero…” and I saw that and said, “Screw that. The rest of the world can go on the straight and narrow,” and I took a left.
Of course, the path I chose meant I’d be misunderstood, have enemies, have to solve bigger than life problems, that kind of stuff, but even if I chose the simple path I’d be telling myself I was still doing those things. The superhero path also meant I’d be respected and honored and sought after, and again, I’d be telling myself those things were true even if I took the simple path.
So somewhere in my teens I figured, “What the hell?”
I took a left and never looked back.

 
For one thing, having a Plan B is distracting. Every time there’s a bump on your Plan A road, you take a moment or two to decide if this is when you should switch to Plan B.

Nobody seems to note that all those moments, all that decision making, all it really is is a loss of focus on your goal for Plan A.

Remember, Plan B is your fallback. It’s what you settle for. It’s less than what you wanted. When Kennedy committed the USA to landing on the moon by the end of the decade, nobody stood up and said, “But if we never leave low Earth orbit, that’s cool, too!” The goal was The Moon. Anything else would be Not Moon.

Anybody notice the subtle shift I did there? I talked about the goal, not how to reach the goal. Any plan – A, B, C, H, Q, Fromblitz, whatever – is how you get to your goal.

Personally, I have no problem with having a Plan B, C, Zelda, whatever, so long as all these plans end at the same goal. I think multiple strategies to the same goal is wise. Find this way blocked?

Not a problem. Find a way over, around, under, through, whatever it takes.

But now I’ve introduced a hidden element into the equation; commitment. Study battle strategies. Battles are lost for two reasons; poor planning on the part of the losers and/or lack of commitment to victory on the part of the losers.

Most people don’t really have lots of commitment. In a society where everything’s disposable – including relationships – it’s easier to get rid of what’s not working than fixing it. Girlfriend/Boyfriend not working out? Long ago someone told me “Nothing helps you get over a man like another man.”

Wow. Screw taking time to reflect, consider, evaluate, heal. Fill that gap! Get something new, different, exciting!

So your Plan A isn’t working?

Okay, but the real question is “How committed are you to your goal?”

Really, completely, nuts-in-a-grinder committed? Then come up with a Plan B for reaching your goal, don’t switch to a Plan B for Goal B.

And what if your goal is really, completely, nuts-in-a-grinder unachievable?

“Unachievable” is a funny thing. What’s making your goal unachievable? A fellow I knew long, long ago talked about his kid wanting to go to Harvard but not having the grades or money to get in. Another fellow said, “If your kid really wants to go to Harvard, they’ll figure out a way to go to Harvard.”

My point is, there’s never unsurmountable challenges and no goal is unachievable. Such things only serve to demonstrate who really wants a goal (and is willing to work for it) versus who doesn’t want to work for it and wants to talk about everything that got in their way.

So figure out what you really want. I mean, really, completely, nuts-in-a-grinder want, and go for it. Honor your goal, whatever path takes you to it.

At a certain point, you’ll realize…

Your Journey is Your Goal,
Your Path is Your Prize

 
What does this have to do with writing, Joseph?
I attended a workshop a while back and someone said they were going to query one-hundred agents. If none of them took his book on, his plan B was to self-publish.

I said, “Is your goal to be published or to get an agent?”

“To be published?”

“They why the hell are you querying agents? If your goal is to be published, there’s lots of sites that’ll publish your book. Why waste your time, the agents’ time reading your query, maybe reading your book, if you don’t care about getting an agent?”

After some back and forth, it came out this person’s goal wasn’t to be published so much as it was to be published by a recognized house. Ah, okay. Nine-times-out-of-ten you need an agent for that. Go for an agent.

“How’s that going for you?”

“No takers so far.”

“Have you rewritten your query letter? Your blurb? Your teaser? Your bio? Your book? If you’re scoring a 100% failure rate, congrats, you’ve discovered what doesn’t work. Don’t self-publish if your goal is to be published by a recognized house, rewrite your proposal, go to workshops and cons where agents will talk with you, get on panels with agents, take courses, do anything and everything to make sure their rejection is pure them and not you.”

Don’t change your goal, change your plan for achieving your goal.

But first, be sure you understand your goal.

Then go for it.

And remember…

I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination. – Jimmy Dean