The Rule of Twos

I shouldn’t be writing about this rule since I’ve broken it consistently lately. Or maybe that’s a good reason to blog about it. In any case, after I started seriously writing and submitting fiction, I came up with a “rule of twos” for myself to help keep from getting discouraged.

The rule is simple – always have at least two things out. By “thing” I mean a writing project of one sort or another and by “out” I mean have it someplace where the project’s fate will be decided for better or worse by a third party not related to me by blood, friendship or bribery. Having a proposal or manuscript out to an editor is having a “thing out.” So is having a completed book or partial manuscript entered in a contest. The idea behind my rule of twos is that I could always be hopeful that somewhere my writing was about to progress through the publication process.

And if one of those two projects got rejected or received a poor score, then I could always be hopeful that the second project would meet with a happier fate. Once that rejection (or acceptance) arrived, I had to send something else out so that I would always have two projects pending.

So what do I have pending right now? Ummm, I recently entered Toto’s Tale in a contest but I haven’t actually sent out the books so I can’t count that yet. I have no manuscripts or proposals out. So I’m 0/2 in the Rule of Twos scoresheet. And that’s bad. It’s time to polish up my current project, get it out and finish up the next one. Then I’ll be ready to send it out when I learn the fate of one of the other two. Or maybe I could even expand the rule of two to include a third. It certainly won’t hurt my chances.

Now I’d like to know what “rules” or other tricks other writers use to keep up production and/or morale.  Please share. I need all the help I can get!


16 Responses to “The Rule of Twos”

  1. Laura says:

    Hi, Kate,

    Great blog – and great idea.

    I’m afraid my only “rule” so far is “nose to the grindstone.” I like your concept of having more concrete goals. I’m going to try yours and come up with my own. I’ll let you know!


  2. Rule of 2? Switch it to the rule of 10! If you have a finished, polished manuscript, it could take you years to get published if you only send to 2 agents at a time. As soon as it is ready to go, shoot it off to at least 5-10.

    I would also (totally my opinion – feel free to blow off) recommend less contests and more crit partners. With a critique group, you can get feedback up to every week, which thoroughly helps with morale and gives you a more polished product…and it doesn’t cost $30 and require you to wait 3 months for comments….

    • admin says:

      I agree, critique partners are essential and I would never have finished even one manuscript without them. However, I don’t count them in my “rule” because they’re a regular part of my writing routine. The “rule” applies to something that requires an extra push.
      I like the rule of ten, but I’ll have to work up to it!

  3. Joya Fields says:

    Great advice! Rule of Twos is a super concept. My critique partners help keep my morale and production up. If I have to have material ready to exhange with my partners every two weeks, I know I have to get to the computer and create/revise. And if I get a rejection, they’re the first to point out that it’s time to resubmit somewhere else then get working on the next project.
    Pressure! It’s a good thing. Submitting is, too. Keep up the good work, Kate!

  4. Beth says:

    So why are you sitting around reading this comment? Put butt in chair and start polishing that manuscript for submission! 😉

    (OK, you REALLY don’t have to point out that I’m not writing right now, either…)

  5. My personal rule was always that I gave myself no more than 24 hours to brood. Some rejections stung more than others. It only took me about 2 minutes to get over a rejection from one publisher who said that they’d never handle a manuscript in which sentences sometimes began with a conjunction. However, a rejection from another publisher that came in about a day after they received the manuscript, leaving me to conclude that they didn’t read very far, burned me but good. I used the whole 24 hours for that one.

    Keeping multiple projects -out- however, is a very good idea and I highly recommend it.

    • admin says:

      I like your 24 hour rule, too. I went to a workshop on handling rejection at my first RWA conference and received similar advise. I’d kind of forgotten it. Thanks for that important reminder!

  6. Diane Wylie says:

    I like your rule of two, Kate. I blast out a bunch of queries at one time, then wait and wait.

    At that point my rule becomes:

    One in/one, two, or three more out.

    As soon as a rejection comes in (which happens far too frequently), I immediately send another query out somewhere. It keeps hope afloat.

    • Kate says:

      Your rule sound more productive than mine – I need to raise the bar a little. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Dorothy says:

    I really like this, Kate. Like don’t put all your egs into one basket, but maybe two baskets is okay?

  8. Nathalie says:

    wow, Kate. Your post got me thinking, and what you shared so clearly makes sense. It sounds like a great strategy.

    Hmm, I’m not sure I have any rules, except to finish what I start (i.e. work-in-progress), and to have fun doing so in the process. I like to make writing enjoyable… 🙂

    • Kate says:

      I think your rule is probably the most important! If it’s not fun or at least fulfilling, why do it? Certainly not for the money. The only other motivations have to do with masochistic tendencies, so I don’t want to go there…

  9. Loni says:

    I really like your idea of the rule of two. I am trying to function on a similar level by keeping one of my stories being worked on and another in various contests or out beating the internet highway to publishing land.

    Here are some other ideas I’ve come across in the past 3 years (some on my own/some from other’s ideas.):

    BICHOK– Butt In Chair Hands On Keyboard (always important–can’t get anywhere daydreaming about it)

    Any positive feedback (even a rejection letter with a “love your voice” or “love your concept” but . . .)–tac it up on your bulletin board where you can see it. Hi-Lite the positive parts in a bright color. This at least shows me I’m on the right track.

    Join a wonderful critique group who is supportive (I am a member of one of the best in the country/possibly world–I don’t know.). I go home from my meetings with a feeling of accomplishment and knowing I have work to do with a positive reinforcement from others who are working towards a similar goal.

    Fill your office space with positive memos, pictures, inspiration for your writings. (Okay so Hugh Jackman’s Sexiest Man 2008 pics are up on my wall right now, along with Patrick Dempsey and various male and female models who I think my characters look like). They will “speak” to you and encourage you to at least do a sensual scene for your book. (Yes, Hugh–I know exactly what you are thinking!) LOL (Sorry, I’m a bit goofy.)

    Take care and good luck with the rule of twos.

    • Kate says:

      I love your ideas, especially taking a highlighter pen to emphasize positive feedback. The negative comments seem to echo forever in our minds – we need to highlight the positive!!
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  10. Sarah says:

    I don’t have any ‘once I’ve submitted’ book rules, which is probably a problem. I seem to distract myself from rejections and such by starting other projects…which means I don’t keep very good track of what I have out. I’m gonna have to try the rule of twos!