Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition

Everyone needs a mission. Whether it’s torturing heretics or saving kittens from croctopus rex, the mission is what matters. What are you trying to do, and how are you going to get there?

In case you don’t have eight minutes handy to watch the Monty Python boys at work, here’s the exchange I’ve always liked the most:

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise…surprise and fear…fear and surprise. Our two weapons are fear and surprise…and ruthless efficiency. Our three weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency…and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope. Our four…no. Amongst our weapons…. Amongst our weaponry…are such elements as fear, surprise…. I’ll come in again.

[The Inquisition exits]

Chapman: I didn’t expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition.


[The cardinals burst in]

Ximinez:Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! Amongst our weaponry are such diverse elements as: fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope, and nice red uniforms – Oh damn!

Sometimes I feel like that. Not like torturing heretics or busting out an iron maiden any time soon, but that sometimes my plans get a bit lost in the execution. (No pun intended.)

There’s got to be a mission and a plan.

It’s for that reason that I’m starting a shiny new schedule. For the next month, I will be posting Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. I may occasionally throw in a Monday or Wednesday if I’m feeling saucy.

All missions start with a goal or objective. Mine is to get published. That objective becomes the target of your mission, but the mission is so much more than where you want to be when you get there. The mission is more than the end game — the mission is how you will get from beginning to end.

Say you want to buy a house. That’s your goal, your target. Unfortunately for most of us, you can’t just waltz into a home with a For Sale sign in the yard and buy it right there. There are any number of other things that have to happen first.

I like to work backward when I’m planning. Sometimes if you start at what you think is the logical first step, like getting a real estate agent, you realize that you don’t have a down payment or that your credit isn’t good enough to secure an interest rate below 30%.

If you’re going to buy a house, the step backward from getting those keys is closing with the bank. What do you have to do to close with the bank? Well, you need to be financially solvent. It’s not the 90s anymore — you should have a down payment and purchase within your means. (I know. Foreign concept.)

That might mean you don’t get the five bedroom, four bath home with a bonus room and a pool just out of the gate. That means you might have to go for the two bedroom two bath with the squeaky stairs and a fireplace that you can’t even use.

Whatever is within your means, you have to get your down payment. Which means you have to save up. That can take years.

When you work backwards to plan out your mission, you find things that you might not have counted on. If you want to be published like I do, perhaps the first part isn’t running up to New York publishing houses and asking them to buy the book you just thought up. There are a myriad of steps to go through before you can get to the end game, and if you don’t figure out the mission and the plan before you start, you might end up bursting through the door rattling off nonsense about your lovely red robes.

Much like the house metaphor, finding your way to published-dom is a process that requires a lot of writing, a lot of waiting, a lot of editing, a lot of tooth-gnashing and days when you want to set your manuscript aflame — but it is still an attainable goal if you work toward having a great down payment (manuscript), solvent credit (a platform), and an excellent agent (…agent). Each step takes time, and I think in the end, buying a house is easier. Too bad that’s not my mission.

And frankly, no one cares.

The flip side of this is that nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. Even the best laid plans can crumble into floundering, but if the mission means that much to you, it’s worth the effort.

What’s your mission? How do you plan to get there? Ever feel like bursting through doors and speaking in silly accents?


About Emmie Mears

Saving the world from brooding, one self-actualized vampire at a time.

Posted on March 1, 2012, in Thorsday, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.

  1. Your goal is to get published, but your actions are to blog regularly. 😀

    But hell yeah. When it comes to writing, we’ve all got to face the fact that if something as basic as writing regularly and working hard keeps us from something we love, maybe we never loved it all that much to begin with.

    • I agree with you, though that’s not precisely the situation I’m in — even though I do blog prolifically, I still work on other projects and am in the process of querying my manuscript. I’ve gotten one book done and halfway through the next in the past three months, so I don’t feel as though blogging has kept me from being productive. I’ve just had a change in my schedule that freed up some more time, so I’m going to try and utilize that as best as possible. As long as I’m writing every day, I’m working toward that goal.

      • Fair point, though in defense of my initial reaction, it did sound like the plan was

        1. Blog!
        2. ????
        3. PROFIT

        Congratulations on having gotten your first manuscript. Good luck with the second one. 🙂

      • Thank you! I’m actually on the third, which is exciting.

        Ah, no. The point was that there are many steps between forming a goal and achieving it, and I’m cutting back on the days that I blog now that my schedule has freed up larger chunks of time to work on my WIPs in a more focused way.

        I don’t expect my blog to ever turn a profit; that’s not really what I started it for. I have been blogging seven days a week while working overtime at my day job and working on my current WIP as well as querying the first one. That’s a lot of work for a lot of layers of my goal. Now I have three days a week just to write, so the point of today’s post was to let my regular readers know that I’ll only be posting 3 or 4 times a week instead of 7 and to show the importance of having a plan so I don’t just write with no direction.

        My actual plan is:

        1. Finish current manuscript (book 3 of trilogy) by April.
        2. Send out 5 queries per week for book 1 of trilogy.
        3. Begin new project and finish first draft by July.
        4. Edit and revise book 2 — second draft completed by mid-August.
        5. Edit and revise new project.
        6. Begin querying new project if I haven’t found an agent for trilogy yet.

        I didn’t line that out in this post because I already talked about it last week.

      • That sounds like a helluva solid plan. And you sound like someone who knows where she’s going–and how to get there.

        Seriously, good luck!

  2. One of the most important lessons I took away from high school (besides, of course, that high school is evil) was this tidbit from a political science class: those who succeed have a goal and plan. I rarely have much use for calculus, but I use this almost daily! Keep at it, stick to the plan, and you’ll get there.

  3. The big end mission for me has always been doing something I love that pays the bills. Remarkably, understanding that I don’t have to be stuck to ONE thing has made me much more open to opportunities lately. Now, in addition to my ‘day job’ I’m freelancing as a bookkeeper for a local business, and finishing up a short story for publication. Getting money from multiple sources covers the paying the bills part (Hopefully!).

    In the end, I want to write novels that people love, and I don’t care about the publishing house or if I need to go independent. Those are equal in my mind. But I do know I need to write a damn good book if people are going to love it! Backtracking from there, I’ve thrown myself into the study of craft, editing for others, and reading more novels than I have since I was much younger.

    • I think reading a lot is one of the huge things writers need to do. It helps teach us that innate sense of what works and what doesn’t and how to structure stories so they flow well. It can also help in the editing process.

  4. Oh, I love that sketch!

    When I read a book that really isn’t worth the paper it was printed on, I’d love to corner the agent, editor, and publisher and ask, “HOW could you accept this?!?! Do you have any idea how much better MY book is?!”

    But, fantasies aside, the mission is similar to yours—a traditional book deal brokered by an agent who loves my query and synopsis, asks for the partial, followed by the full, and then offers the contract. And the road is long and hard—write, edit, rewrite, edit, revise, edit, rewrite, edit (repeat all as needed), multiple beta readers over multiple drafts, tear out hair over query and synopsis….

    If that fails, well, in this day and age we have a viable alternative in e-publishing. If I can’t do the traditional deal, I will take that path—maybe wearing a red cardinal’s outfit…. 🙂

  5. Who doesn’t love the MP boys? I’m taking a quick break from my WIP and that was just the laugh I needed! You are wise to cut back on your (admittedly awesome) blogging and find more time for the work you wish published. Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. Onward!

  6. Kourtney Heintz

    I love your thought process here about figuring about what is the step before the end step and then going backwards from there. Good luck with the new blog schedule and writing schedule!

    • I learned that in Schmeach for Ashmerica (I left a year early, so I don’t think I’m allowed to say I was involved). That’s how they taught us to lesson plan…I reckon it’s applicable for most large goals as well. To get published traditionally, you need a deal with a publisher. To get that, you generally need an agent. To get an agent, you must have an excellent manuscript and a rockin’ query letter. To have an excellent manuscript, you must read and write consistently and respond well to critiques…etc.


  7. I always feel like bursting through doors and speaking in silly accents. I am especially fond of the Ricky Ricardo accent. 🙂

  8. You always draw the best comparisons, Emmie. And I expect that now that you’ve summoned forth the inquisition, this means you too shall soon be ruthlessly beating people with pillows?

  9. I love the idea of working backwards. I’ve heard people apply that concept to outlining their novel, but I’ve never thought to apply it to life. Thank you for that. I’m right now in the process of setting some plans (both personally and professionally), and I’m going to go over them backwards to make sure all the steps are in place.

    Sharing this on Facebook. Love the Monty Python.

  10. Right there with those who like the idea of working backward, which I now realize I am doing with my current manuscript. I’m one of those who probably needs the Spanish Inquisition on a regular basis, as I tend to channel Pollyanna if left to my own devices.

    Really liked the house buying metaphor as I agree it is easier but tends to cost more eventually, whereas writing, at least for me, tends to provide more.

    Great blog.

    • Thanks so much for stopping by, Karen! And for subscribing!

      You’re definitely right about the expense thing — though the way some people write, I sometimes wonder. 😀 Elizabeth Kostova spent a decade in Eastern Europe to research The Historian, lol.

  11. I love Monty! Plan is a word that has entered my life recently. Good for you for having one.
    AND I love the name of the blog.

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