A Novelist’s Guide to Goals

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Don’t get tangled up like these crazy succulent vine things. You might have to hack your way out with a machete.

Setting personal goals is all about knowing what you can do and then pushing your limits. You don’t want to push yourself so far that you flop over in defeat, but just enough that you learn more about yourself and about your craft.

Years ago I would set arbitrary deadlines: “I will write 50k by June!” I always failed, but I always learned. I’d write 10 or 20k and be satisfied that I had pushed myself as far as I could. Now I know what prep must happen before I set the goal. 50k doesn’t just appear out of thin air. I’m a planner, so without an outline or clear story goals, I’ll never make it.

Today I’m setting a deadline for draft three of BLOODSTONE, which includes 3 weeks of prep and 18 weeks of editing 2 chapters per week. Some weeks will be easy and some will be grueling, especially considering how busy my summer is going to be.

I’d like to encourage you to set goals for yourself. Measure how much you can accomplish and stretch yourself just a little further. You might need to start with arbitrary goals like I did, but you can also analyze your process a little and see where you’re weak: outlining, character growth, plot formation, simple butt-in-chair time. Writer’s block doesn’t appear out of thin air. It has a source, and your job is to locate the root and rip it out.

The Visual Writer’s Writing Day

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After publishing the last Friday Reflections post, I dove back into my novel. I settled into my study and shut the door on all other responsibilities. My Italian mask kept watch to deter distractions. Call me crazy, but I also went through the house and shut a few more doors for a clearer mental barrier between my novel and anything that threatened to press against the study door. Do you ever feel that connection between the physical and the mental? It’s a quirk as a visual and kinesthetic learner, I suppose.

Though my responsibilities eventually burst through the door, I was able to write 1.5k before they pulled me away. I settled in with my tea and sipped who knows how many cups of tea as I typed.  Maybe I go a little overboard with my tea, but I enjoy having some small, ritualistic break. I pour a new cup, stir in sugar and milk, and watch the steam rise.

DSC00511My novel is up to 72k and I’ll reach 80k by the end of the first draft. I wish I could say that I didn’t post on the blog last week because I was finishing my manuscript, but instead I was sick. Health returned around Good Friday, just in time for my writing group came over. Jen insisted that she be the first one to read my completed novel–no argument over here! She’s the most enthusiastic reader I’ve ever had. In order to get it to her decently soon, I’m aiming for these goals:

  • Outline last few scenes (done!)
  • Finish manuscript by May 1st (getting there!)
  • Get through two drafts by June 1st (Lord help!)

What goals do you have? If you’re stuck, what’s stopping you from charging through your story?

 

Friday Reflections – Tips on Fight Scenes and Characterization

Recently I’ve moved toward non-fiction side: writing articles, posting blogs, and editing everything. And I mean everything. This week I was even promoted to Lead Writer at StoryForge–which I’m really excited about. But as a result of all my freelance activity, my fiction is getting shoved in the corner. It’s time to pick up the pace. My novel is so very close to the finis. So, for some inspiration and instruction, here are some articles on scene work:

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I’m so happy with my new business cards! Freelancing is an adventure; however, I’ll dive into another world this afternoon and engage in an oceanic battle.

The Gospel of Combat: How Fight Scenes Feed your Story” – Chuck Sambuchino from Writer’s Digest introduces Marie Brennan’s book on fight scenes. Instead of writing for “pure spectacle,” let the fight create rich ground for character growth. Every person has a unique reaction to violence that reveals deeply psychological desires or inhibitions.  This advice is surprisingly timely for me, since I’m going to tackle a fight scene very very soon.

How do you create realistic feeling characters?” – Author Marivi Solvien answers an aspiring writer’s question on NaNoWriMo. To create rounded, relational characters, you need to draw on associations–observations of strangers, friends, family, even actors. Read her answer for more details.

I hope you have a restful weekend and a productive week! Got any plans in the making? Any goals to keep you chugging? 

6 Ways to Limit Distractions and Finally Focus

Over the years, I have gathered a few tricks to help myself settle down and actually write. Today I am actually following my own advice! (A novel concept, right?) Using my little penguin egg timer, I’m writing in hour increments and taking healthy breaks. See the article for all 6 tips at StoryForge Productions!

Today’s goal: 3 hours, 3k, and 1 teapot of rose-jackfruit black tea. 

  • Hour One: 1,145 words and 3 hot cups of tea.
  • Hour Two: 1,103 words and 1 lukewarm cup of tea.
  • Hour Three: count pending 980 words and 1 cold cup of tea.
  • Total: 3,227.

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How do you get yourself to focus? Any quirky tips that you can share?

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Write as if you were dying. At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case. What would you begin writing if you knew you would die soon? What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard — What would you write?

Writing Tip of the Day: How to Revitalize Creativity

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You’re stuck, feeling dull, and browsing endless Pintrest boards for something to revitalize your muse. You want to be productive, but the longer you scroll down that page, the more numb your mind becomes. It’s ironic how you scratch that psychological itch to be productive by filling your brain with a blur of busywork.

To kickstart creativity, all you need is the loud chopping of a helicopter. The wind whips your hair around as you squint into a painfully bright searchlight. Over a loudspeaker, someone commands, STEP AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER! You obey quickly—who knows if they’ve got snipers trained on you. As you set it aside, the commanding voice continues:

  • LOOK AT THE SKY. It’s dark above, but soon you realize that a few pricks of light have found their way through the clouds. The moon is rising. The residue of a lunar rainbow rings about it. Was all this here before? You never noticed until you backed out of your virtual world and rediscovered the real one. But that isn’t enough. The voice prods you again.
  • LOOK DOWN. You run to the edge of the building (because obviously you were browsing Pintrest on a skyscraper roof like any normal human being) and below, in the buzzing lights of neon signs and street lamps, hundreds of people mill about. They stop at shops, with small children tugging on their coats. They shove their hands into their pockets and trudge with determination. Where, you ask? And why? Now you’re getting somewhere.

You’re expecting the next command, but it doesn’t come. As you turn back to the chopper, it rises, dips forward, and dives out of sight. You’re tempted to run after the mysterious apparition, but instead you notice that your computer is gone. A large yellow legal pad sits in its place. In all caps, italicized, two words read: BE CURIOUS

As you stare across the cityscape you wonder yet again, where did that helicopter come from?

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DIY and Freelancing

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After a whole year of writing articles about pretty houses, I finally took some of my own medicine and actually DID one of the tips that I tell people to do: I spray painted two grungy brass lamps for a clean, … Continue reading

StoryForge Web Comic Launch!

To the utter glee of my local writing community, StoryForge Productions just launched their webcomic House on Writer’s Block,” and I’d like to invite you to read and enjoy it as well! Each day this week will bring you a page deeper into the Skelter:

Between the borders of Civilization and the Faery, lies the old, abandoned Writer’s Block. If you take the third dead end to the right, you’ll find the Skelter and its eclectic inhabitants. This is their story. Except, it isn’t, really.

See StoryForge’s Facebook Page to get involved in this fantastic storyteller’s community.

Just a hint to my followers—you’re going to hear more about StoryForge pretty soon, because they’re awesome. And very dedicated to the art of storytelling.

September Update: 10k / 15k

Today is going to be write-tastic! I get to interview a guy about weaponry and combat tactics this afternoon, and then I’ll have an evening of writing with a friend. I think I’ve decided that I really like interviewing people—learning about their experiences and perspectives can be so eye opening.

What about you? Excited about any writerly plans today?