Friday, January 11th, 2013
A long time ago I resolved not to make New Years resolutions.
I’m not against trying to do better. I just don’t like the system: For the last month of the year or so, people start talking about what they’re going to do next year: lose weight, read more, eat more vegetables, stop kicking the cat.
And for a month or so, people binge eat, swear off books, eat less vegetables and kick the cat more…because they know in a few weeks they’ll have to go cold turkey. (Never realizing, of course, that by Valentine’s Day, 75%* of all those resolutions will be long broken anyway.)
* I made up that statistic. But you get my point.
And besides, it’s all so arbitrary. If you want to stop kicking the cat, do it NOW. Why wait?
That being said…
I do like to set goals for myself: reachable, measurable goals which are wholly under my control. (If they’re out of my control, they’re not goals, they’re dreams. Don’t get me wrong: dreams are awesome. But they often rely on outside influences to obtain them.)
If I miss a goal, I’ve only got myself to blame…
…unlike really good fiction.
Goals are the building blocks of stories. The hero has a list of goals he wants to achieve. The protagonist has a list of goals he wants to achieve (often at odds with the hero’s goals). Without this conflict, the story is boring.
Often, the hero’s most basic goals, let’s say, leaving a room, are stymied by the protagonist — who locks the door, or shoots the hero, or reveals a bit of information to the hero that is so inconceivable, that the hero is frozen in place (by shock, indecision, heartbreak, anger, etc.). No matter what, the hero cannot simply get up and walk out of the room.
Here’s Your Prompt:
- Make a list of 3 – 5 goals you want your hero to accomplish. (If you’re writing a short story, stick with 1 goal, 2 at the most.)
- Make a list of 3 – 5 goals for the antagonist to accomplish: goals which by their very nature are at odds with the hero. Remember: at the beginning of the story, the antagonist doesn’t know what the protagonist’s goals are, so it’s cheating if the goal is a direct contradiction of the hero’s.
Your protagonist might be a retiring Firefighter looking to purchase his neighbor’s 10-acre farm on which to live out his golden years.
The real estate agent handling the transaction finds out the land contains lucrative mineral deposits, and puts in a bid for himself instead. Prices for the farm escalate into a bidding war as the realtor decides he wants to own the property for its potential value.
(So, the protagonist’s goal is to buy some property to retire on. The antagonist’s goal is NOT to stop him from retiring with property, but to invest money in a property with possible lucrative minerals. It just so happens that in this case, the property is one and the same.)
- Choose one goal for each of them, and write the scene where the two goals conflict.
Thursday, January 12th, 2012
I still need to post the results of my 2011 Goals, but that’s going to take some effort to get together. Things sort of fell apart toward the end of the year, and while I kept paper-based records, I didn’t enter anything into my spreadsheets.
I’ll get those together soon.
Even without punching the numbers, I realize I haven’t met many of last year’s goals. I might have been able to do so, but I didn’t anticipate the writing funk I fell into after losing a manuscript, as well as the time-sink The Great Roof Debacle turned out to be.
But instead of scaling back most of the number-based goals, I’m going to re-target them toward fiction. That aligns nicely with my overall plan.
Here are the goals:
1 – Write 250 days in 2012
Last year I tried to write 302 days out of the year, and I found it nearly impossible to reach. Working full time with a long commute just doesn’t allow for it. But I’m hoping that by cutting other “writerly” commitments (like no longer serving as the Secretary for my county’s writer’s association) – I’ll be able to manage a few more days.
2 – Double last year’s fiction output.
3 – Finish the first draft of my current work-in-progress.
4 – Write stories for three separate anthologies I’ve been invited to write for – before March 30.
5 – Write an average of 3 blog posts per week (at least 156) for 2012.
6 – Fifty-two (52) of the 156 must be Writing Prompts.
7 – Clean out my office, and clean off my virtual desktop.
Those of you who have seen my computer’s desktop know what a jungle of files it is. I want to organize all that. Likewise, I want to re-organize my office. Things are still in boxes due to the roof issues, and living out of boxes is really annoying.
I think that’s going to take a whole separate “project plan” to accomplish, but it will be worth it.
How about you? Posted your goals yet?
Tuesday, October 11th, 2011
There’s been a lot of upheaval in my writing life lately, some of it spilling over from my personal and work life.
There’s the lost manuscript.
The mismanaged roofing job which resulted in water damage in the house.
The fact that because of said water damage I’ve been working out of my kitchen. (These high stools are killer on your back muscles when you’ve been sitting for a while…)
More stress at the day job than I can adequately describe in one sentence. (Trust me, it’s the stuff of a novel-length tell-all…)
There’s been some good stuff, too — I just had a wedding anniversary — but if the state of the kitchen table is any indicator of what’s going on: things are out of control.
It’s time to reign in and re-boot.
It also means focus.
I’ve been concentrating on the new stuff while I’ve got a pile of perfectly good finished stuff just sitting around. I’ve had some rejections come in (fact of life, folks, if you plan to be a writer) and I haven’t sent them back out to new markets yet.
They need to be sent off to new homes in hope of fosterage!
I haven’t decided if this current morass means I need to re-examine the goals I made in January. I need to dig out of the muck and see what’s left before I determine that.
So last night I updated my calendar from all the multiple input sources and printed it out through December 2012. (Just for fun, I stopped printing at December 21 and marked the end of the world. Remember: life is WORTHLESS without humor.) Then, I updated all my tickler files and writing deadlines.
Tomorrow… I have a class, so I’ll have to wait until Thursday to go through the finished projects and make plans for their distribution.
Then: I’m going to attack the unfinished writing projects like paying off debt: the projects which are closest to completion get written down first, thereby knocking out as many as possible, in as little time as possible.
And, damn the muse! I’m not starting anything new until all these are off my plate. (She’ll get me for that, I’m certain.)
How do you approach a re-organization?
Monday, July 18th, 2011
I got absolutely no writing done last week.
away, having a moderately fun time in a well-known location doing some research for a contemporary novel I’m contemplating writing.
Ha. I thought I’d have time to relax from the research and put in a few hours each day editing or writing anew.
One day I made the effort.
The rest? A bust…even though I meticulously prepared.
Lesson: Just take a vacation.
Or, maybe: Build more days into the “off” schedule (so that the stats don’t look so bad at the end of the year). 🙂
This week isn’t shaping up much better as I’ve got some (unexpected) travel and training to attend for the day job. Since I’m prepared from last week, it won’t be a problem to carry along the current projects…but I’m doubting I’ll find time.
Still, I’m going to try and make the effort.
What do you do when things go awry? Do you settle for less than you want to do, or bag it all together?
Thursday, July 7th, 2011
I have an ambitious list of resolutions for 2011, if you recall.
So how am I doing? As usual, I’m happy with my progress on some goals and not so happy with my progress on others.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading about epublishing and the state of ‘the writing business’ in general, and some of the goals I had in January don’t line up with where my current thinking is. I’m beginning to steer myself toward longer works, rather than shorter, and doggedly pursuing some of these items will take me further away from where I currently want to be.
With that in mind, I’ll probably strike a few of these goals off the list.
Here’s the nitty gritty:
Triple last year’s fiction output.
- Write 302 out of 365 days in 2011.
Fail! Even if I write every single day for the rest of the year, I won’t hit this mark. Something tells me I should have aimed a little lower with this one. I haven’t updated my spreadsheet for the last week or so, so my numbers are a bit off. However, it looks like I might make about 80% if I write nearly every day for the rest of the year.
On target. Even with not hitting the daily writing mark I’ve set, I’ve managed to double last year’s fiction goal. This irritates me a bit because if I were writing nearly every day like I want to, I’d really see the numbers climbing.
Finish the two short stories that have plagued me since the beginning of 2010….or trunk them.
Fail! Or maybe, Complete!! I wrote this goal poorly. Can you tell? I haven’t even looked at these two stories, so I will probably trunk them. That means Complete! Right? (This is the first goal I’m going to discard.)
Finish the first draft of my current work-in-progress novel.
Write and submit 6 non-fiction articles.
- On Target. I’ve written 25,000 additional words since January.
Write at least three blog posts per week for a total of 156 blog posts for 2011.
Fifty-two of the above mentioned blog posts must be writing prompts.
- Fail! I’ve written 0 articles this year, although three I wrote last year were finally published. (I could probably still meet this goal, but it doesn’t line up with my “longer works” goals. So, I’ll probably abandon this goal, too, before the year is out.)
On Target: I’ve created a Writing Prompt every Friday since the beginning of the year.
Make 30 fiction submissions this year, only 1/3 (or less!) of which can be flash or micro-fiction.
Fail! (But not by much.) I’ve only submitted 10 stories this year. I can probably make this up by the end of the year, provided I have some additional short fiction finished…and, well, we know where my goals lie, so I’m not sure I can do this.
Finish reading Sol Stein’s ‘How to Grow a Novel.’
Send 25 query letters to agents.
- COMPLETE!! Finally! Excellent book, though a tad dated for today’s market. Expect a full review sometime “soon.”
- I’m not hopeful about this. Early on I decided that the anticipated novel I was going to shop needed one more ‘read through’ and I found a section I want to completely re-write, so I haven’t moved on this. It’s late in the novel, so there’s an opportunity for me to send out the queries and fix the section before some agent (or editor) asks for a full, but I really want it “all done” before I send anything out.
So…that’s it for me. How about you? If you’re over-exceeding your goals, will you be raising them? Are you abandoning any ill-made resolutions, like I am? Inquiring minds want to know!
Monday, January 24th, 2011
As you know, last year I didn’t submit to magazines as many “pieces” — my generic term for both fiction and non-fiction — as I wanted to. Though, if I’d planned it better (rather than completely focusing on other things) I might have.
And I might have had more than the three pieces accepted for publication.
One of my 2011 goals is focused on making more submissions (which will, I hope, lead to more acceptances). But other than setting myself a reminder on the calendar, I wasn’t sure how to make this happen.
And even if I did schedule it, how could I guarantee I’d have something to submit when the time came?
Today I stumbled on a method which might work, and I wanted to share.
I keep this spreadsheet (I love me some spreadsheets) which tells me just about everything I need to know about submission I make:
- Name of the story/article/query letter, etc.
- Type of submission (Fiction, Non-Fiction, Microfiction [added in 2010!] Query, etc.)
- Where it was submitted
- Date Submitted
- Whether it’s still out or not
- How many days it’s been out
- Date I received a reply
Over the years it’s evolved (via much writing procrastination and cat waxing) into a document which tells me yearly totals and percentages of each of those, how many total submissions I’ve made in my writing life, what kind of stories I’ve placed more often, average days out, etc.
(Yeah – there have been days when the spreadsheet, rather than the WIP, has ruled my life.
But, I digress.)
Spreadsheets being what they are, I add a line at the bottom when I’ve made a submission and all the formatting is automatic. I usually close it fairly quickly unless I need to reference something. End of file.
But, today, I added 30 blank lines at the bottom of the file….which are begging to be filled.
Such a small, visual change…but seeing the blank lines has me itching to fill them (and motivated to write something new to submit) – as soon as possible. I’m fairly confident I’ll make, and probably exceed, this 2011 goal.
What tricks do you use to motivate you?
Tuesday, January 18th, 2011
I summed up my accomplishments for 2010 in two parts:
Part 1 – the platform building
Part 2 – the numbers
Finally, I’m getting to my goals for 2011.
I’m behind (as you can clearly see) but I wanted to put some thought into this before posting.
It was important to me to make the goals challenging, but reachable. I also wanted to be more specific than I was with last year’s goals, so that my review at the end of the year will be both easier to write, and easier to evaluate.
With that in mind, here’s what I’m striving for this year:
1 – Write 302 out of 365 days in 2011
I’ve determined that since I work full time and have a 2+ hour daily commute for the day job, it’s impossible for me to write daily. 302 = 52 weeks of the year times 6 days a week, minus 10 Federal Holidays. I’m not sure I can actually meet this goal…but I’m going to try.
Note that I don’t care if I write fiction, non-fiction or cereal box ads during any given day: writing is writing.
2 – Triple last year’s fiction output
Since I’m not planning a blog tour this year, I think I can reasonably accomplish this…with some stretching. In order to do so, however, I’m upping the goal words-per-day by 25%.
You’ll note that I’m talking percentages and not real numbers….just as I did in my year end review. I’m deliberately obfuscating the number, and the reason is simple: what I think I can reasonably accomplish in a day, and what someone else can, are different. And that number changes, based on the circumstances. Before I agreed to a two-hour commute, I could knock out 2k words easily in a day. These days, 2k is a good weekend goal.
If you’re playing along, pick a goal which you can reasonably accomplish with some effort – you don’t want it to be too easy, after all.
3 – Finish the two short stories that have plagued me since the beginning of 2010….or trunk them.
4 – Finish the first draft of my current work-in-progress novel.
5 – Write and submit 6 non-fiction articles.
Word count doesn’t matter.
I’ll be keeping track of the word count, of course, but it’s more important that I actually actually write the articles. As part of my “platform building” last year, I wrote three and submitted them to some articles web sites. I’m hoping to drive additional traffic to my site.
6 – Write at least three blog posts per week for a total of 156 blog posts for 2011.
Again, word count doesn’t matter (though it will be tracked). I simply want to remain consistent.
7 – Fifty-two blog posts must be writing prompts.
I want to maintain my “Friday Writing Prompt” which I’ve consistently published each Friday since I started in June 2010.
8 – Make 30 fiction submissions this year, only 1/3 (or less!) of which can be flash or micro-fiction.
9 – Finish reading Sol Stein’s How to Grow a Novel.
(This sounds like a gimme, but I borrowed it from the library last year and I’ve renewed it 11 times so far. I’m only allowed to renew it 9 more times – unless someone puts a hold on it, and then I must return it immediately. It’s a good book, but others keep making it to the head of the line… Putting it on this list will make me finish it. I hope.)
Finally, I come to the big goal….and I still don’t know how to phrase it correctly.
I’m going to be sending a novel out into the wild. Obviously, I would like to obtain representation this year…and yet, that goal is out of my hands. So, rather than set myself up for a pass/fail grade by the end of the year, here’s what I realistically think I can do:
10 – Send 25 query letters to agents.
Obviously, I’ve got a plan. I won’t be spamming 25 agents with my manuscript. I’ve got a carefully written, personal query letter ready to send to my number one agent of choice. And to my number two choice…and so on.
With luck, I won’t need to send all those letters, but I’m trying to be realistic. If I do wind up sending them all…I’ll regroup and make a new goal somewhere late in 2011.
What’s most important? The writing, of course. If I can finish the writing, the rest of the goals, minus Stein, should fall into place.
Can I do it? I hope so, but only time will tell.
Has everyone else set their goals, or am I the last one in the pool?
Tuesday, January 11th, 2011
I’ve finally finished tallying all my numbers from last year. In some areas I’m pleased, in others…not so much. Some of my displeasure arises from the way I set my goals.
I exceeded my word count goal, reaching 174% of the objective.
This would suggest that I set my goal too low and need to increase it for 2011.
But if we discount everything I wrote except for fiction, I only reached 25% of my goal.
Yet – part of my 2010 goals were dedicated specifically to promotion of my book and trying to attract readers to my blog. So neither 174% of goal, nor 25% of goal, tell the whole picture.
I can break it down further:
I reached 91% of my word count goal in blog posts alone. And promotional guest blog posts and non-fiction articles I wrote consist of 59%. .
I would have liked to have written more fiction. I would have liked to have had more finished stories to submit. But I wasn’t specific enough when I set my goals last year. (See that post here.)
This year, I’ll create separate goals for each of these three categories of writing.
My goal was to write between 57% and 71% of the days of the year. (An increase over the 53% of the days I wrote in 2009.)
I wrote on 215 days of the year, or 59%.
I reached my goal, but it felt like an uphill battle most of the time.
I’m toying with the idea of trying to average 6 days a week of writing minus 10 Federal holidays. This would bring the “writing days of the year” down to 302, rather than 365.
Using that number, I would have attained my 71% goal. But: I haven’t decided if this is “cheating” or not. (What do you think?)
Short Fiction Stats
Completed Written: 3, but all were flash fiction
Incomplete: (Started in 2010) 0
Incomplete: (Started 2009 or earlier) 2
Completed Stories just sitting around doing nothing: 10 – this includes two stories which have been published and the rights reverted back to me.
Fiction Submissions: 11
Fiction Acceptances: 2, and I have 2 outstanding submissions.
So: 22% acceptances so far. This could rise to as much as 36% or dip as low as 18 % once the other markets respond.
In 2009 I submitted 25 times and had 5 sales, for 20% — roughly the same rate of acceptance. But I’d rather have more sales.
I didn’t actually set a goal for submissions in 2010, but I will for 2011.
Revisions: 3/4 complete on 1
Queries: None, but did not intend to do so
For 2011, I’ll be setting a query submission goal.
3 articles written and 3 published
These aren’t counted in my submission statistics because they were guaranteed publication….but I’m not sure how to count them when I do my comparison at the end of this year. I might wind up adding them after all.
4 newsletter items written, 1 published – but the newsletter these were written for went belly up after my first article appeared.
These, too, aren’t counted in my submission stats for the same reason as the articles. Again, they might end up in the submissions spreadsheet, simply because record keeping will be easier.
I also wanted to:
1 – meet more people
2 – attend an additional convention
3 – do more readings
I managed to do all three, the first accomplished mostly by attaining the second two as I added Darkover attendance and readings at both the Constellation Book Store in October and the Library of Congress (with Ellen Kushner and Catherine Asaro!) in March.
I’d also intended to try two writing software programs (yWriter and Writer’s Dream Kit) and post reviews. I did try WDK, but didn’t write a review. Maybe I can find time for that in 2011.
This year, I intend to write more fiction — including finishing one of the novels I started in 2010 — and search for an agent. I’ll post official — well defined — goals later.
How did you do with your goals?
Monday, January 4th, 2010
I made a mistake!
While updating my work-progress spreadsheet for 2010, I discovered in error in the “percentage of days written” column. In my post on 2010 Writing Goals, I mentioned that I’d failed to write more than 50% of the days in 2009.
Not so: it turns out that through the magic of cut and paste, I’d introduced a tiny error in my spreadsheet on those months that don’t have 31 days, consequently adding five more days to the calendar year.
I was dividing 370 days rather than 365. So…my actual days of writing last year were almost 53%.
With that in mind, it hardly seems fair to only shoot for a total of 57% days writing this year. What’s 4%? Not much to aspire to after last year’s results.
So…I’m upping the ante over my previous ante upping:
I’m shooting for 64% AND I’m increasing my word count goals by 50%. That should challenge me.
How about you? Have you changed your goals already?
Friday, January 1st, 2010
I have not. However, I am setting a few goals for myself.
A few years ago I wrote a post on my old Web site about not making resolutions for the new year. I’d have to dredge it up from the archives to quote myself accurately, but my reasoning went along the lines of:
“If you don’t make resolutions, you don’t have to worry about breaking them.”
Short-sighted, perhaps, but it left me feeling perfectly content in December when others were lamenting their lack of fortitude and inability to meet their resolutions (or scrambling madly to attain what a little pre-planning during the year would have accomplished…with much less fuss.)
Now, I simply make goals. I know it’s just semantics, but I’m a wordsmith, right? Semantics are my territory!
Last year I set a modest daily goal, and allowed myself to count my blog posts as part of that goal. I exceeded my goal, nearly doubling what I set out to do.
Don’t applaud yet.
I deliberately picked a small number of words to meet because I work full time, have a 2+ hour commute daily and a youngster…
Time is slim. So I picked a number which I thought was challenging, but doable.
As I’m reviewing my records (in columnar format in a spreadsheet, with a page for each month and a line for each day, and a “yearly” page with all the months at a glance with auto percentages and red font for negative goals) because I’m just analytical like that…I realized that I’d missed my own point.
I did meet my goal of a certain amount of words per day, but I didn’t actually write EVERY day. Except for the 1st, I wrote every day in January 2009, February only has a few days filled in, the rest of the year is better…especially October, when I went on my Writer’s Retreat… but on average, I failed to write daily.
In fact, I failed to write more than 50% of all days last year….and managed to produce quite a bit of stuff: some of which was published in 2009, some of which has been accepted, and much of which is making it’s rounds to editors now.
(And now I’m sitting here wondering how much more I could have accomplished in 2009 if I’d just considered my goal in a different light.)
I’m upping the ante this year.
My goal is to write between 57 and 71% of the days of the year. The difference between the two is one day a week. Writing four days out of seven = 57% of the time; five days out of seven is 71%. I’m reserving the weekends for family, even though these are the two days that I actually have the most time to write.
I’ll be content to meet 57%. I’ll be ecstatic if I manage 60% or better. Even if I don’t constrain myself to a minimum word count, I should still see the numbers increase for 2010.
My other main goal is to get my office organized. Does anyone else operate out of boxes?
This year, stuff is getting into the filing cabinet. I started doing a bit of that as I prepared for my retreat in September, but I’m determined to get the desk cleaned off, the boxes emptied, and everything still on floppies transferred to some other media.
Some minor goals include trying out Simon Haynes ywriter software with one of the novels I’m working on. I’m also going to try Writer’s Dreamkit software. I bought and tried it a long time ago and didn’t like it…but I’m going to give it a second chance. I’ll write about both here on the blog when I’ve evaluated them.
Finally, I want to get out more and meet more people, whether it’s an additional conference, a reading or a book store. In fact…just about anywhere will do.
So… what about you? Are you resolving?