This is the time of year when many of us take stock of where we’ve been and where we are going.

For myself, this was an incredible writing year. I finished my Regency mystery novel–turns out, it’s the first in a series–and I started looking for literary agents. Yay me!

This novel took me a long time to write. I started it before I had kids…and my eldest is ten years old!

It took so long partly because I kept getting interrupted by life! But also because I like to edit as I go. I had to hammer out the characters and the plot as I went.

Writing a novel is a marathon run, even when the process is ‘quick’.

So now I want to increase my stride, finish my run with a better time.

I’m about to start Book 2 and I am JAZZED! I have the general outline in my head. I’m hoping its easier this time around, given that my characters are established. We know one another better now. I get them. And I know their trajectory.

I suppose that is making me bold.

It took me 10 years+ to finish my Regency mystery novel. So I want to finish the sequel in…6 MONTHS!

Yeah, that’s right. You heard me. It’ll be done by June! (Hah! Take that, Universe!)

Of course, it’s easy to set goals. Not always that easy to implement them. I’ve definitely been down that road before, setting writing goals and missing them by a mile! (The latest incarnation being, ahem, #nanowrimo.)

But before I get myself bent all out of shape, thinking I’m doomed from the start, perhaps I should recap for myself some of the lessons learned during my 10 year + bout of novel writing.

1. Feel the Grit

The point of making a goal is to commit to something. The goal is the end result of that commitment.

The goal may seem huge and a bit daunting. For example:

I want a (highly edited, nearly perfect) 90, 000 word novel by June.

Sitting here, in my computer chair, with only about 200 words in my pocket, that end point seems a million miles away, impossible.

Then I shift my focus ever so slightly away from my terrifying 90 000 word count and onto the feelings of commitment that I have towards this project. That feeling is jazzed and excited. That feeling is determined and stubborn. That feeling is what gets me from 200 to 90 000, over time.

Call it grit.

Reminder: tap into that sensation of grit on a daily basis. 

2. Flexible Mindset

If you’ve read my previous posts on writing goals, then you’ll know that I didn’t hit my intended writing goal way back in 2011. I missed it by three years.

At the time, missing my mark was a big disappointment. I questioned my resolve. Maybe I would never finish this novel. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to. Maybe it wasn’t worth my time. Maybe I should just forget about it.

Reminder: there will be moments of reconsideration and recommitment. 

I will ask myself: is this quest still important to me? Is this worth it? Do I still want it?

If I still want it? Proceed.

A goal is not a ball and chain. It can be a fluid thing, mutable and adaptable, if it needs to be.

It can be moved up or delayed, time wise. It can be fiddled with. It can also be rejected altogether.

It doesn’t own me. I own it.

Meaning, I may have missed my intended mark by a few years. But I still hit it, eventually. I hit it because I kept recommitting to it.

And that’s what counts in the end.

3. A Little Goes A Long Way

When my computer malfunctioned and I lost a sizeable chunk of writing, I’m not gonna lie: I almost lay down on the floor and wept.

Those were dark days. I considered stopping and giving up. The only way I got through it was to set a timer for 10 minutes, and make myself sit at the computer until the timer went.

Again, not gonna lie. It was horrible. I was so used to Writer’s Bliss and (mostly) loving my writing experience that to face that kind of writing drudgery was painful. Very painful.

I didn’t wanna do it.

I had one of those moments of reconsideration (see #2) and eventually decided to recommit.

The deal I brokered with myself was to sit for short bursts of writing time. I would just ‘show up’ for the allotted 10 minutes time. I would ‘show up’ and ‘see what happened’. If I wrote, great. If I didn’t, fine. No heavy expectation. I’d take what ever I could get.

Funny enough, I found myself writing through my initial resistance. The timed 10 minutes stretched to 15 to 20. I got some of my groove back, when I’d thought it long gone. And, over time, I slowly, slowly, re-wrote what was lost.

Reminder: a daily drop in the bucket fills the pail. 

A marathon is run by putting one foot in front of the other.

A novel is completed by  one word in front of the other.

Reminder: lay down the words, girl. Just lay down the words!