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.

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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?

 

Writing Update, and How to Keep Going

I’m directly on track with my novel! I’ve edited 800-ish words every day for the past two weeks. From past experience, however, this is the most dangerous time for me. Once I feel satisfied with myself, I’m much more willing to slack off. After slacking off, I’m in danger of giving up altogether.

The solution?

This time I only let that satisfaction sink in for a few minutes. First I crowed gleefully like Peter Pan (well, with words and not actually any crowing); then I moved on, calculated word counts, and planned tomorrow’s quota. 

Goals:

  • August: edit 40k (25k finished, 15k to go!) 
  • September: write 15k
  • October: write 15k
  • November: write 10k

How’s writing coming for you? Successes? Struggles?