Own Goals

When it comes to writing, I know I’m still in the honeymoon phase.  Every time I learn something about the craft I’m certain my writing will improve because of it.  The publishing industry is exciting and full of possibilities, and for the most part the internet is the place I’m meeting many new friends and colleagues.

But like Luke Skywalker desperate to become a Jedi, I’m impatient to get to the good stuff.  I want to be finished so I can try out all the cool editing tips I’ve been collecting off the internet.  Just the idea of having a seek-and-destroy session on overused words gives me little chills.  (I know, I know… somewhere Yoda is shaking his head and thinking, “Work with this, I must?”). 

The truth is I’m probably dazzled by the final stage of the process because it is a distraction from the hard work I need to put in right now.  I’m in the writing stage, and not only the writing stage, but the stage where I need to get a grip on the fundamental skills that shape my ability as a writer.  It’s just not very exciting.  To be fair the writing can be – especially when you learn something unexpected about a character (like I did recently), or the stakes suddenly increase in a way you didn’t see coming. However this is the sort of thing you can’t share with others without giving the plot away. So when it comes to blogging, I either share vague references to my personal story-gold, or what I’m learning about the craft.

I had a brilliant idea a few weeks ago to do some learning on the blog.  Learn some grammar and share these little gems with you.  So I started with the comma.  The problem was when I looked at the rules governing the correct usage of the comma – I’m sure I felt my brain start to bleed.  Seriously, either that or I was falling into a deep coma, or being lured over to the dark side.  Needless to say even if I did understand the rules perfectly, there was no way I was capable of turning them into exciting reading material.  (At this point I’m praying osmosis will kick in, or my Jedi instincts will help me master the comma once and for all…).  However I’m starting to get a sinking feeling that editing won’t be all seek and destroy good-times.

I read a great post this week by Alison Strachan, called Writing Goals: Learning How to Learn About Writing.  Alison is at a similar point on her writing journey as I am, and was discussing the way we as writers approach writing in this technology driven age.  In some ways things are much easier for us as writers, but in other ways we need to be more focussed than ever, especially when it comes to be setting goals.  I liked what she had to say:

Part of this is setting long term goals. Setting goals is important when writing. Word count and research goals keep you on track and keep you writing. Weekly timetables  work well and flexibility and commitment are key. I have spent some time thinking about my goals recently and given the current market I am beginning to think I need to tighten my schedule and put in place a solid working goal for completion. At this stage I don’t actually have an end date in mind for my first draft. So should I?

Alison makes a good point; it’s in our own best interest to set long and shorter term goals.  The big goal is easy – publish the book to great acclaim (never hurts to dream big), but the shorter term goals have been harder for me.  They’ve either been too vague (to write more), or unrealistic (I will write every day and finish the book in 3 months).  I’ve tried focussing on a daily or weekly word count, but that often backfires as I’m focussed on words on the page and often lose track of the story.  I also struggle to balance writing and family commitments.  And although I’ve been told a blog is important to build your platform, how do I pitch it when I’m far from being an expert and my work is still far from publication?  These have been vague concerns for a while, but Alison’s blog challenged me to confront them head on.  What are some positive goals I can set?

1. Regular Writing Time.

Because I’m the kind of person who struggles with word-count oriented goals, I figure it would be more helpful to set a minimum writing time during the week.  Even if it’s only 30 minutes 4 days a week.  I’m more likely to achieve that, than 2 hours a day.  Building a regular writing habit is important, and if I go longer than 30 minutes – all the better.  And I must stress (if only for my own benefit) – writing time doesn’t include blogging or trawling twitter.

I’m also hoping by scheduling properly I can protect my family time too.

2. Build a Craft File.

I have a few well used craft books that grace my desk, and I’ve slowly been printing useful writing articles off the internet as I come across them.  My goal is to sort them into a proper file separated into writing techniques and tips, editing, querying, publishing and marketing.  And then try to focus on the writing techniques and tips.  The other areas are interesting, but will be of more practical use in the future.

3. Love my Blog Now.

I’m learning things about writing every day – so there will always be something to share.  I am in the early stages, so as I’m benefiting from everyone else’s knowledge I will share it with you.  And in the spirit of paying it forward, give much credit and kudos to those who are further ahead and are happy to share their experience.  I’ll be working on posts in the future to really highlight those who are generous with their knowledge, skill and encouragement.

This seems a sensible place to start, and I can always re-evaluate.

What do you think?  Are you still working on your first book?  I’d love to know what sort of goals you’re setting for yourself.  If you’re well along the path I’d love to know what your early goals were, and how they’ve changed over time?

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13 thoughts on “Own Goals

  1. Thanks so much for the shout out!
    I love your idea about creating a file filled with all the tips and info about the craft of writing. I have bookmarked about a hundred blogs and pages I think but that is as organised as I have been about it all.
    I find that I am not very good at sticking to word goals unless I have a regular writing time that I am able/motivated to stick to. My cute new strawberry kitchen timer has been working a treat. I set it for half an hour when I get the chance and don’t do anything except write for that time. I have found that I need to stop and re-evaluate my timetable at least once a month in order to stay on track. My theory is that 200 words a day will add up quickly!

    1. Thank you for the timely prompt to set some realistic goals! I agree about the regular times (and good idea about the timer). Now I’ve identified the goals, I just need to work them into my schedule…

  2. I think your 3 goals are excellent ones. Writing on a regular basis is key, and blogging about your writing process and shared experience is important as well. I strongly recommend you go ahead with your idea of a craft file. I built mine two years ago and it was a turning point for me: suddenly I knew where I was going and how, and I could focus on my writing. Best of luck with this first draft!

    1. Your craft file must be gold by now. At the moment my printouts are all loose in a box. Not the easiest to manage. But I’m sure that can be whipped into shape fairly quickly. Thanks for the positive feedback!

  3. Hi Raewyn! Thanks for sharing more about you as a writer. I completed my first book last September, let it rest for six months, received helpful suggestions from editors and agents (who ultimately rejected it) and then let it rest some more as I struggled to determine where to go with it (as I also started my second, third, fourth, and fifth wips! All of which are in various stages of prewriting or rough draft stage.)

    At this point, I know what needs to be accomplished for book 1 to be its best, and have been diligently revising. You’re so right about long-term goals. I decided to enter the first chapter into another contest (already won first place with it in another contest last year) with the hope for a ms request if I win or place. This also forces me to stick with those final revisions, with the goal of finishing them by October.

    I’d written 20K of my second wip when I stopped to read Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. Now that I have his strategies for organizing a novel, I’m applying it to plotting the remainder of this one, and am optimistic about finishing a strong first draft by the end of the calendar year.

    We have to be careful not to burn ourselves out, or frustrate by taking on too much at once. I lost month’s of valuable writing time after that first book because I’d been so obsessive about it that I hadn’t begun brainstorming/germinating my next novel at the same time.

    Routine is good. I like to write according to time, rather than word counts too. Because I can always accomplish a specific time.

    Good luck and I look forward to joining you on our writing journey. 🙂

    1. Thanks for your comments Jolyse, you have such a great attitude towards writing. It was a rude shock when I realised quite how much revising and editing and straightout learning goes on with writing your first book. But knowing that, and seeing others diligently work at it encourages me too. Best of luck with your first book and the new WIPs too!

  4. I don’t think it’s a complete accident that “coma” and “comma” are only one “M” apart. ;p My disastrous use of them, I’m afraid, made my Beta’s ears bleed. He tries ever so patiently (and then quite bluntly) to get me to memorize the rules but. . . well . . . I was never very good with rules.

    1. Yes the comma / coma thing wasn’t lost on me either. I think I swing to extremes – either pepper them everywhere or leave them out altogether. *sighs* I will look at the rules again next week. Perhaps my brain will have recovered…

  5. My goal in writing is to tell a story that I feel needs to be told. I would like lots of folks to read it, but I more just want the story written in a way that pleases me. My first goal was to get the first story knocked out, and I did that. My next goal was to finish part 2 by the end of this summer, and I am SO CLOSE. I am hoping to finish the next part of the story by February/March and keep making progress. I want to set aggressive goals and force myself to meet them.

    1. I like the idea of writing a story that pleases me (you? – you know what I mean…). I agree. I’ve recently had a few small critiques done and it’s surprised me how much of the feedback I take take and think, yes that would make it better. But it has also been easy to decide what feedback to leave because it suits my idea of the story and what I want to acheive. Well done nailing your goals. I can’t wait to get the WIP finished, it must be a great feeling!

      1. It feels great, and then there’s a little bit of emptiness. The “O.K., now what?” feeling that you get when you have been working towards or anticipating something for a long time. It’s like Christmas as a kid, where all morning you are thrilled, but then as night comes on you find yourself wishing you could do it all over again and already waiting for next year. Does that make sense? Is it odd that I have already started writing two more series in my head when I’m not halfway through with this one? (they are modern day sci fi and 1930s action/fantasy while my current series is norse/medieval high fantasy)

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