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?