Archive for the ‘Goal Setting’ Category

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Setting Writing Goals for the New Year? Consider this!

December 29, 2014

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!

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Where’s the ‘real’ Finish Line?

May 2, 2014

done but not doneThe other day I wrote the last line in my novel. Yippee!

It has taken me years (I’m on the verge of saying ‘decades’) to reach this point. The road I took was long, winding, and, on occasion, headed in the wrong direction.

But I followed it faithfully.

And now it’s done! 

But it’s not done!

Next up, I’ve got editing and a massive rewrite. I have to lose *around* 30, 000 words. (That’s a lot of ‘darlings’ to kill).

Sometimes I wish I wrote less intensive pieces—limericks and haikus, say. Pieces that don’t require the endurance of an ultra-marathoner to get from A to Z.

Writing a novel is a vast enterprise. Like any long trek, you need fuel (by which I mean snacking at the computer), positivity (go! writer go!), stubbornness (not…giving…up) and a sense of humour (oh! I just spent two weeks working on a scene that didn’t work and it turns out I don’t need, ha! ha!).

Also: you need the wisdom to realize that even once ‘the work’ is polished and published and read by millions (?)…you’re still not done. There’s more stories to tell. New projects.

I’ve realized: my twinge of jealousy towards poets is misplaced. Poets don’t just stop at one (usually). And neither do novelists (usually).

We all keep running. Writers of all kinds are willing to go the distance.

When you’ve got a creative calling, is there ever a finish line? I say: No! So, pause for a moment to enjoy the milestones, but otherwise…just: GO!

 

PS. I COULDN’T RESIST! HERE’S MY LIMERICK!

There once was a writer named Julie

Who wrote all the time, so groovy,

She wrote and she wrote

‘Til the day that she croaked

Then she wrote as a ghost, yes, truly!

 Hmmm. Better stick with novel writing, amiright?

 

 

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The Benefit of A Consistent Writing Practice

March 13, 2014

quit sulkingIf you’ve followed my blog recently, you’ll know I suffered a setback…a month’s worth of novel writing ‘disappeared’ due to a corrupted computer file.

I have tried to rally from this loss but to be honest: it hasn’t been easy.

I don’t wanna, has been my grumpy attitude towards having to re-write scenes already written. I said it better before, I’ll grouch as try to recollect a particular turn of phrase from those deleted sections.

Nothing is good enough. The material feels boring. I’ve tread this path before and I resent having to tread it again with less verve and inspiration.

Never before has writing felt like such a grind. It is PRIME TIME for procrastination. I don’t wanna. I’ll do it later. Another time. When I feel like it. *sticks out tongue at computer*

But I know it needs to get done. I want to finish this story, it needs to be told, its been a process of many years and its so close to the end, I can taste it. I don’t want to wait until inspiration strikes. I need to make the inspiration happen now whether it wants to or not…

So I’ve finally adhered to that old adage: WRITE EVERYDAY.

I used to write when I could break away from daily life. My ideal writing time was when I was jazzed by an idea or had set aside the luxury of ‘a few hours’. Those two combined was a heady mix of ‘writer’s bliss’. When I was jazzed and really had the time to tap into it and cause it to manifest…man, those were the best writer times EVER.

Looking back, my writing practice was a mix of turbo writing madness followed by an infuriating barren block, followed by a trickle allowed by circumstance, followed by a block, then a trickle, then a turbo…it was an inconstant pattern, actually: rush, stop, lurch, stop, rush, lurch. I felt at the whim of the Writing Gods. They seemed to be having a good laugh at my expense, those rascals.

But I’ve decided now I cannot wait for ‘inconsistent whims’. Otherwise, I’ll never get over this hump. So I’ve decided to drop the bar of expectation low. My reasoning: a low bar is better than no bar at all.

I’ll actually put on the stove timer. I started with ten minutes. Moved to fifteen minutes. Surely I can spare a mere fifteen minutes everyday? (If I turn of Netflix, I can.)

I tell myself: SIT DOWN AT THE COMPUTER, WRITE TO THE TIMER. GO.

Setting the timer allows me to enter my novel with minimal expectations. From this vantage point, the only way to go is UP. And so…I go UP.

Interestingly, I have found myself exceeding the timer on occasions. The timer will ring and I’ll look up from the screen: huh? what? I’ve been too involved in writing to notice the passing of time.

This method is helping me deal with my grumpy writer attitude. By the end of my session, I am typically transformed, regaining confidence–and bit by bit, my writing is growing. I am slowly recapturing what I’ve lost and my novel is growing. Ten, fifteen, twenty minutes at a time.

Such is the benefit of a consistent writing practice.

PS Don’t have a timer, you say? Try this one on line!

writer decisions

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The Return…

February 26, 2012

Well, here I am! I’m back! So sound the trumpets and let the confetti fall from the sky and get ready to cut the cake, baby…!

What? What do you mean there’s no cake?!

It’s funny how in an author’s life there are big stops and starts and large interior, seismic moments that no one has a clue about but you. Writing is so intensely personal.

I’m returning to my almost-finished novel and in my mind the red carpet should be rolled out and I should be handed a glass of Champagne…

I had to step away from writing for a while, primarily due to work. In my day job I’m a teacher. I get to teach fun things like reading and writing and a lot of my creative energy goes into making that material accessible and interesting.

My novel, which is my own, special, highly personal creative project, suffered from a serous lack of attention.

I thinks it’s mad at me.

I’m going to have to approach it gently, give its lots of praise, as we slowly get reacquainted. What a pretty little novel you are! Such a good novel! We’ll get you all polished up, patch up all the plot holes, get you ready for the grand finale…isn’t that right, sweetums? 

I want to get back into The Writing Life!

Then maybe we can have some cake?!

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Setting Writing Goals…Again…

June 17, 2011

Well, there you have it. I wanted my novel finished by June 1st, 2011 and it didn’t happen. I wrote like a mad woman during the times I could carve out for writing in the month of May, but it wasn’t fast enough. I wasn’t able to shout out over Twitter that I’d met my #writegoal, as I’d hoped.

Sniff. Moan.

Yeah, I feel guilty. I probably should have stayed up all night or gotten up at 4 am every morning to give myself consistent writing time. Unfortunately, I’m one of those people who needs regular meals & 6 to 8 hours of sleep. I’m a mom and a teacher and I couldn’t show up in those roles with bags under my eyes, mumbling about regency rakes and onomatopoeia. I’m trying to strike a balance here…

Sometimes I can make time for writing, and other times I can’t! (Um…and the nice weather of late isn’t helping, encouraging all kinds of outside family fun!)

I did, however, make it from ‘the  middle’ of my novel into ‘the beginning of the end’–round of applause please. Last count, I had 12 scenes left to write…(trouble is, I keep adding scenes in! The stepping stones I need to skip across to the finish line keep growing in number like some fantastical dreamscape!).

I’ve also beat that whole ‘perfectionist’ tendency, not letting myself go back to revise or rewrite, just writing it down, just getting it down and done…

So I did make progress, more than I’ve made in any other year and in any other month. And for that I think I deserve to celebrate! (Raise a glass, if you please! Oh, and pass the cherry cheesecake!)

As to my writing goal…I’ve set another one. BY THE END OF THE SUMMER!

So, if you’d kindly keep your glasses raised, I’d like to make a toast: here’s to the endless writing pursuit, here’s to not giving up, here’s to getting back on the horse after falling off it, here’s to setting another writing goal, here’s to having *only* 12-ish scenes left…and here’s to the end of the summer!

CHEERS!

PS. Have you set writing goals? And met them….or not? I’d love to hear about your experiences! Leave a comment below!

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‘Write’ Across the Finish Line…

April 23, 2011

I gave myself a deadline of having my first draft finished by the time I turn 40–June 1st. That’s about one month away.

ONE MONTH!

So–I have to make this blog entry short. No time to dilly dally or ramble on. I’ve got work to do!

BUT I did want to drop by here and let everyone know that I got over my little crisis (see my Tweets). A few days I ago I made the mistake of going back over my novel, re-reading parts–and I stumbled across (or fell into) numeorus pot holes…I mean PLOT holes. Naturally, I was horrified. I HAVE TO FIX THESE RIGHT NOW OR I CAN”T GO ON! I thought. A few days of angst ensued. Several helpful folks on Twitter gave me their reccomendations. The general consensus seemed to be to go on. Move on. Unless they are so horrible, so huge, the wholes story falls to pieces, don’t worry about them. Leave em for later.

So I’m going to.

I’m usually a very deliberate writer. I like to lay each scene down, tweak it as necessary so it fits fine, then move on to the next one.

But I don’t have time for that now. I’m going to pretend May is my #nanowrimo. I’m going to finish it in one month, writing, writing, writing, just seeing where the writing goes, just getting it done. I don’t care if it takes a strange turn, and all of a sudden my Regency heroine is an alien and she time travels with Brad Pitt to the 1930’s and has a shoot out with a gangster and dies in Brad’s arms quoting Latin.

Personally. I don’t think that ending is going to happen–I trust my vision–but if it does…I will fix it all later. LATER. Once its done.

So I’m settling into my cozy chair (see comic above) with my laptop and my cup of tea and in those times when I am not being a mom, or running/exercising (my other goal), or being a teacher, I am going to be writing my ass off, ‘write’ across the finish line.

“Get the serum to Nome. Get the Conestoga wagon to the Oregon Trail. Get the first version of your project done from A to Z as fast as you can. Don’t stop. Don’t look down. Don’t think.” From Do the Work by Stephen Pressfield.

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Daily Writing Goals: Why Are They So (Bleeping) Difficult?

June 18, 2010

I have great admiration for all you writers out there who set daily write goals…and meet them.

Actually, by ‘admiration’ I mean ‘jealous’. Yes, I am jealous of you! You are making your #writegoals happen…while its taking me 10 years…and counting…to finish my novel…

It’s not for lack of trying. I have set daily writing goals in the past, but it’s never worked. I just end up feeling depressed and slightly insane…

Ahem…but enough about me. I do have a few questions for you, if you don’t mind, as to what is the secret of your success…?

Question #1: Do you cheat?
Come on. You can tell me the truth. You’re stuffing your writing with filler, aren’t you? Your using ‘very’, ‘really’, ‘quite’ and all the mixtures therein , like ‘really quite’ and ‘very, very,’ and ‘really very’…That’s how you’ve reached your daily 1000 word count goal, isn’t it? Because 867 are filler adverbs! And another 100 are where you just typed the same word over and over…!

Question #2: Where are you?
You must be some place where you get lots of quiet time & few distractions. Solitary confinement maybe. Or a Buddhist temple. A deserted island, right? That’s how you are able to block out all those intrusions of daily living so can focus and meet your goal…You’ve sealed yourself off. Just you and your laptop, living the dream, the writing la Vida Loca…

Question #3: What are you on and where can I get some?
Is there some kind of ‘Writer’s Rescue Remedy’ that I’m not aware of? Some herbal tea mix? Or maybe you’ve added something extra to your coffee, hmmm? There must be something making you so concentrated and verbose, so that you can whip those words off in such a scant time frame. Perhaps an old family secret passed down thru generations? Come on. You can tell me. I promise I won’t patent it and sell it to other writers…and make millions…heh, heh…

Ok, turning serious for a moment…

I know it isn’t an easy task for writers to set daily writing goals and keep them. It takes hard work, dedication, will power…it’s like any goal, from losing weight to saving money for a trip to Disneyland. You need to believe in your objective…and figure out a plan that works for you.

For myself, I finally got off my tush, stopped drifting and set myself a yearly goal…my novel is to be finished by June, 2011.

But to really make that happen, I think I need to:

1. Break that goal down into slightly smaller targets so it’s not so overwhelming. (I think I’ll aim for 3 month blocks…)

2. Set specific but realistic targets. (Let’s say 3 chapters in 3 months…that seems pretty realistic…and if I go over, I’m going to feel great!)

3. Picture the benefits. What is my payoff? I need to see it. Feel it. Taste it. Smell it. That’s going to keep me motivated. (I will get to revel in the  self-satisfaction of making my dream come true…plus I get to brag on Twitter and my blog…)

4. Start with where I’m at. A larger perspective is fine…but its still in ‘the future’. The real change happens in the present. Right now. So what do I need to do now? What is my next step? What can I reasonably accomplish this week? (Research the Ottoman Empire in 1813! Start that google search!)

5. ‘Know thyself’. I’ve just decided to admit it: I can’t do daily writing goals! They make me feel hemmed in and panicked. So I’m not going to do them! I need a broader time span, so I have flexibility and room to maneuver in case those ‘contingencies’ arise (like writer’s block rearing its ferocious head one afternoon, or having too many errands to run …or god forbid, my son actually flushes a toy car down the toilet…)

6. Proclaim it. Say it to someone, put it in your blog, put it on Twitter. For some reason, when you tell someone else this strengthens the commitment. Other people are watching. It’s like when you work out at home vs. going to an exercise class. At home, you might wimp out at 3 abdominal crunches…but in the exercise class you’re determined to do all of them because you’re not going to let them see you fail! (I’ve tweeted & blogged it and I’m also participating in @Arvael_oTierney weekly check in)

All right! I have now completed the 6 steps of my make-shift 6 step #writegoal plan. Now lets see if I can make it happen without adding adverb fillers, locking myself in the bathroom for all of eternity, or spiking my lemonade with some kind of homegrown Writer’s ginkgo biloba…