Everyone sets them. Everyone breaks them. As January of a new year arrives, have you made a list of goals? If you’re reading this blog, I would venture that some of them are writing related. But goals can also be a black pit of despair–can you set a goal too high and always find yourself falling short? You bet you can.
What You Can Control
Don’t say: “I’m going to sell twelve stories in 2011.”
Say: “I’m going to write twelve stories in 2011.”
You can’t control how many stories you sell, but you can control how many you write. In 2010, I set the goal for myself of twelve new short stories. At the year’s end, I didn’t end up with twelve. I ended up with five new shorts, one novella, and half of a novel. I didn’t plan on doing Nanowrimo at all. At all. And yet, there it was. You can’t control how much money you’ll make as a writer, but you can control the projects you pitch, the writing you do, the number of submissions you make. You can control the amount of time you spend on the internet (doing anything other than research or networking), the conventions you attend, the workshops you partake in.
Words Every Day
Write something every day. Even if you only write for twenty minutes, write. In the piece I wrote about Nanowrimo I talked about making the Play-Doh from which stars could be extruded. Getting words on the page is so important–it’s the first step. The words don’t have to be perfect. Just write. If you find them in the wrong order later, you can rearrange. That’s part of the fun in being a writer–the story doesn’t have to be linear for you. You can flit back and forth and back again.
I didn’t reach my goal of twelve stories in 2010, and that’s totally my own fault. Nothing else kept me from doing it; I just didn’t write every day. The Nano novel didn’t even keep me from making short story words.
Make your Play-Doh, and then turn it into stars.
Finish the Story
I know a few writers who skip from project to project and they never finish any of them. Worse yet, they moan about not finishing, how they have no focus, how they can’t get started. Well no, they get started just fine, but they have no staying power. Learning to how finish the story is an awesome goal.
Beginnings are easy–they’re shiny, they beckon. When you get into the guts of a story, it’s harder to stick it out. It’s easy to set a story aside and not figure out how it really works. Put an ending on every story you write. Let the story sit for at least a week, then go back and look at it. Does it work? If it doesn’t, maybe you can see where it falls apart now, and know the proper ending.
Read whatever you can get your hands on.
I usually set a goal of 52 books a year–sometimes I make it, sometimes not! (In 2010, I read 46 and didn’t finish 4 others.) Most of them will likely fall into the genre in which I write, but I also read outside of my genre because books call to me. They know my name too well. If you don’t read in the genre you want to write in, how can you excel in it?
You should know what your fellow writers are doing. You also never know when something you read might inspire a story of your own. One of my stories was written in a fit after I read a brilliant short story by Patricia Anthony, and later went on to sell. If I hadn’t been reading, I don’t think that story would have presented itself to me.
What are your goals for 2011? Share them with us in the comments!