On goals

It’s coming up on the end of the year, and I’m noticing people posting about how they’ve done this year or making plans for next year. (I’ve got a wrap-up post of my own that’ll go up Saturday, so I’m not immune.) If you need help in thinking about goals, I suggest you take a look at Dean Wesley Smith’s blog. Annually, he does a series of posts on goals, how to set them, and how to make sure they’re realistic. Right now, only the first one is up for this year, New World of Publishing: Failure is an Option. Quitting is Not. Here’s the meat of the post (in my opinion):

Check through all your goals for 2012 and make sure they ONLY concern your work level that is in your control.

Nothing more.

No action from another party can be involved, otherwise it is not realistic.

He’s also got a lot in there on failure (hence the title of the post), and how it’s going to happen. Anything that’s out of your control (which, as a writer, includes a publisher picking up your title or readers buying your work) is subject to failure. But you only fail completely if you give up. Definitely worth a read.

So . . . looking at posts like this, I get in the mood to think about all I’d love to accomplish next year. I could probably write a huge list. I usually do, including lists of books I want to finish, new projects I want to do, and on and on. This year, however, I’ve already set my new goals, and I’m keeping them simple, as I already mentioned.

  1. Finish something every week. This can be a novel, a short story, a haiku, a drabble, or a paying project for work. Paying work often leaves me exhausted and not wanting to do much if any writing, so taking that into consideration keeps me from beating myself up. Still, it’s a concrete weekly goal. Do something!
  2. Get something up for sale every month. By only asking myself to get one new thing up per month, that gives me time to make sure I have covers, and when a month is filled with family or with paying work or unexpected turbulence, it still gives me a chance of success.

Why am I posting today? To remind myself that I don’t need a huge to-do list. Just following through on these two goals is sufficient, and it should be instructive to look back next year and see just what 52 things I’ve managed to finish. It’s even conceivable that, say, the week I decide to finish sewing up my son’s quilt that that will be my finished project for the week. I don’t know, but it should be a lovely adventure to find out.

What about you? What goals are you planning to work toward in the next year?

short, long, and other fictions

I apologize for the general lack of bloggery last month. I probably should have mentioned that I was doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, writing of 50,000 words during the month of November), as I have done every year since 2003. Between that, the day job, and lots of family time, writing blog posts kind of got put on the back burner.

First: did I win NaNo? Yes, I did, with the amazing feat of writing 17,607 words on November 30 to both finish the book (middle grade book, first in a projected series of five) and win. I’m fleshing out the outline for the next book in the series already. Very happy with how this is shaping up.

Second: what about Touching Time, my Mayan novel? That’s been indefinitely back-burnered, as Moongypsy Press has been temporarily closed. I may still work on finishing it up over the next couple of months, but it’s not a priority right now.

Third: any new short stories coming out? I haven’t sold anything recently, and the two anthologies I have sold to (Assassins: A Clash of Steel anthology and Spells and Swashbucklers) have had changes in their publication status. Spells and Swashbucklers has had some contract revisions, and I’m hoping to hear soon that there’s an actual release date (hoping, not expecting). Assassins, along with other books from Rogue Blades Entertainment, will be published in a joint venture with Black Gate, and further details on that are forthcoming.

Fourth: what’s up with “no excuses” in writing? Well, I haven’t done very well with that this year — managed less than 30,000 words total January through October, I think. Part of it was Touching Time, actually. I sent my entry off, not really expecting anything to come of it, and then discovered I was going to have to deliver a complete novel. So that moved to the top of my “to do” pile, and any time I started to work on something else, I’d tell myself I should to the Mayan book first, but it wasn’t coming together . . . so nothing got done. Excuse after excuse, but no writing.

I added another 10,000 words to Touching Time at the beginning of the month, realizing there was a whole subplot that would make the story much richer. I’m now feeling more like this is something I want to get done, but not yet.

When I switched to the MG book, though, and especially at the end, when I knew what was happening and what was going to happen and how disaster was going to strike and I kept typing and typing, it reminded me of something I’d read in a comment on Dean Wesley Smith’s blog recently, that we make our own speed limits (a phrase he attributes to Nina Kiriki Hoffman). Thinking about this as the slightly altered, “The only limits on my writing are the ones I put there,” I felt incredibly liberated. I’m excited by the writing and the projects I’m hoping to get done over the next year. I also found great inspiration from Rachel Aaron’s post on going from 2k to 10k a day.

(I know that there are limits that we don’t put there, really. My friend Dawn recently broke her hand, which makes typing hard and slow. But the hand will heal, so taking the time to try to learn and implement Kevin J. Anderson’s dictate-a-story method probably isn’t worth it for the time she’d be using it. I mean this phrase in terms of when I say things to myself like, “Oh, I’d never be able to write 10k two days in a row,” or “I can’t write in that genre,” or “I don’t know how to do this, so I won’t.”)

Fifth: what’s up with “no excuses” outside of writing? I did the Couch-to-5k running plan earlier this year, then fell off the band wagon with a foot that hurt, sick kids, son out of school for the summer — and other excuses. Then we went on our family vacation, and despite packing my running shoes, I didn’t run once. Then there was the disastrous 5k in September, which I completed in just barely under an hour, and left myself feeling unable to do most anything for a week or so afterward.

Since then? No exercise, and lots of eating the wrong kinds of foods. I’ve put back on a chunk of the weight I lost earlier this year, and I’m feeling tired and drained all the time.

Solution: Today, I started over. Back to basics, week 1 of the Couch-to-5k plan. I’m also going to be reading the book Chi Running, which Dawn recommended to me. (Due back at the library today, and I’ve got a hold on it, so I should get it later this week.) I don’t know how long the weather’s going to hold, leaving it reasonable for me to keep running outside three times a week, but I’m going to go as long as I can, and if I have to switch to running in place in front of the TV downstairs, then that’s what I’ll do. I liked being in better shape.

Last (What am I up to, sixth?): I’ve set my goals for next year. They’re simple and easy to track:

  • Finish something each week. (Novel, short story, article for Vision, drabble, haiku, paying work project)
  • Have something new up for sale each month.

So that’s it for this update. I’ll be trying to blog more frequently going forward. How are you doing as you wrap up this year and prepare to move into the next?