Tuesday, December 21, 2010

New Year Resolutions for Writers

I chose this picture because this is what Christmas means to me. Holidays by the beach.

Right now I’m a bit obsessed about setting goals. I have 3 books to hand in and they are growing as I do my last read through. New scenes keep surprising me, scenes which are really necessary for the dramatic tension and character development.

So, since we are headed towards the new year. I thought I’d do a post about setting goals. Here are some of the traditional suggestions for writers who want to set goals.

Jennifer Minar talks about the 5 steps to setting goals, starting with writing them down. Barbara Kay talks about much the same steps, but she adds giving yourself a pat on the back. (We all need that some time). Moira Allen talks about setting effective goals, including short term, medium term and long term. And here Joyce Good Henderson talks about setting specific goals such as I will submit to X.

Now I’m going to throw a spanner in the works. I think all work and no play makes a writer’s creative muscle grow weak, not stronger. So as well as setting goals for completing and submitting work, I think any creative person needs to:

1. Attend a convention. If you’ve never been to an SF convention, then go to one this year. If you’ve been to SF conventions, then go to a comic con or a computer game convention. Streeeetch yourself. (I’m going to do SUPANOVA this year. I have been there once before but it is so big, there’s still a lot for me to see).

2. Go somewhere you have never been before. It could be in a town nearby. It could be on the other side of the world. Going somewhere new makes you look at your own home with new eyes and we all need that now and then. (A few years ago I visited my great aunt in the UK. I’d never been outside Australia before, except for New Zealand, and I’ve never been away from my children for 21 days before. I came back a new person. It was like rediscovering myself).

3. Learn a new skill. Pick something that you’ve always wanted to do and enroll in a short course. You work hard. The family expect you be at their beck and call. This is time out just for you. A new skill will streeeetch your mind. You’ll meet new people. And, at the end, you’ll have a sense of achievement. (I took up the art of the Samurai sword at 42 because it was something I’d always wanted to do. It gave me an insight into Bushido the Japanese warrior’s way).

4. Go see the ballet/theatre show/art gallery/orchestra/jazz concert. Feeding one creative muse doesn’t mean you switch off all the other creative areas. Writing is a compulsive mistress, but you’ll be a better writer if you expose yourself to other creative arts. For one thing, those other artists are just as crazy dedicated as you are and you might as well support a fellow creative. For another thing, the insights that they bring to their medium will help you gain insights into yours. (My daughter attended the conservatorium where she did Jazz vocals. When I go see her perform I can feel the passion. It’s inspiring).

5. Get together with other writers at least once a year, talk shop and critique your work. Make sure these are writers whose judgment you trust. It gives you a chance to be a writer, before anything else. It gives you feedback on your current manuscript. And it helps hone your critical skill to give your writing friends feedback on their manuscripts. Make sure there is good food and good wine. Let your hair down. Have some fun. You deserve it.

My writing group ROR meets every year or so, this means we have to get books finished for these deadlines. At each ROR we have a realistic goal and a dream goal. There’s no harm in having a dream. Mine is to be able to write and make enough to live on. LOL. My realistic goal is to get my 3 Outcast Chronicle books finished and handed in, and do a rough draft of the next King Rolen’s King book one by September. Now that is really pushing it, but that’s when the next ROR is, so I’ll need to have something to take with me.

What are your dream goals and your realistic goals?

7 comments:

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Is everybody madly doing Christmas shopping?

Jim McCoy said...

Let's see...

My realistic goal is to get my novel finished. It still has a long way to go, but it's possible if I just keep hacking away at it.

My dream goal is to get published. I'm going to write a couple of shorts between semesters and I plan to submit them...uhh...somewhere. I just have to figure out where.

The real kick in the pickle is that I have one that a writing professor told me was probably good enough to get published...

If I can find a market.

His exact words were, "It's too racy for Reader's Digest, but not hard-core enough for Playboy, Jim. I'm not sure where you'd take this to."

I keep trying to come up with something, but I'm not sure where to take an adult-themed humor piece.

I AM open to suggestions though, if anyone has any ideas.

MataPam said...

Yes. Last of it, I hope. Christmas shopping, that is.

Dream Goal: Make enough to buy a house like we rent and vacation in every year.

Realistic Goal: Sell a novel. Sheesh, I've got four out doing the rounds, they cover a gamet of sub-genres, surely one will catch an editors fancy.

Lucius said...

Realistic: Write, revise, and market 5 short stories.

Dream: Finish, revise, and market the #$%&ing novel.
(I need to improve my plotting. The first 10 or so chapters came together pretty well. But how to get from there to the conclusion...)

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Jim,

Your realistic goal to finish your book is something that's under your control.

The dream goal to get it published requires the planets to line up because the publishing world doesn't seem to operate by any rule that I can figure out.

My best advice would be to look for books that are even a little bit like it, then research those publishers.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Matapam,

I've love a holiday house that I could run away to!

You've got four books out doing the rounds. I work on the theory that once your writing is good enough, publication is a matter of hitting the Right editor with the Right story at the Right time.

As I said to Jim, it's a matter of the planets lining up. But this won't happen if you aren't submitting.

So, fingers crossed for you!

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Lucius,

Short stories are a good place to start. They don't take too long, so the investment of your time is not as great as a novel. There are lots of markets. And you can get noticed if the stories place or win competitions.

The novel sounds like you need to take time away from it, or show someone who can give you constructive feedback. I always hit a patch about halfway to two/thirds of the way through where I wonder if I can pull all the threads together. Then, when I do, I wonder if it is any good.

This is why I find belonging to my ROR writing group so helpful.