It’s that time of year again!
Time to look back and see what I achieved and what I learned in 2010, and set some goals for 2011.
I do feel like I achieved a lot with my writing in 2010. Not The Call, sure, but other valid achievements. I subbed three first chapters, one each to Harlequin Medical Fast Track, Mills and Boon New Voices, and Harlequin So You Think You Can Write. I did the Write-a-Thon I set for myself over Easter, managing over 5,000 words a day to complete a first draft aimed at Superromance, then edited up and subbed the partial. I learned a lot from the rejections, even the form one! So fours subs in a year, considering the most I managed before was one chapter for contests in each of the preceding years, is pretty good going! I have a bulging ideas file, a story in progress, and plans to edit up the rejected Superromance. Daily word counts may not be awesome, but there’s been steady progress. I’ve certainly written on more days than I didn’t!
I’ve done some excellent online workshops this past year – the Margie Lawson and Shirley Jump ones are the stand-outs, and I’m hopin.g to take more workshops with both of them again in 2011. Margie’s insights into how people express emotion through body language and using a character’s body language (she has a broad definition, including everything except the character’s actual spoken words and internalisations) to show not tell, are something I need to revisit (must reread those super-comprehensive lecture notes!.) Shirley Jump is just plain fun to work with, a fab teacher, and a brilliant writer. I did two online workshops with her, and will be signing up for the next one in February!
I’ve learned plenty through personal reading and workshopping too. Donald Maas’s Writing the Breakout Novel and the Workbook that goes with it helped make some shifts in my writing – not enough to breakout, obviously, but enough for me to see a difference. Do get both if you’re going to do it – yes, there’s some repetition, but the workbook is where things really shifted. I’m glad I broke my bad habit of reading books but not doing the exercises this year! Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat and Save the Cat Strikes Back are fab – I love his style and the Beat Sheet is a brilliant way of looking at story structure. Robert McKee’s Story, which I’m reading now, is a thoughtful and deeper exploration of what it takes to make a well-written story – definitely one to read with either a notebook or a Word file open for all the insights into your current story you’ll get! I bought a few other writing books this year, but haven’t done much with them yet so can’t comment.
So, onto to 2011 and my goals!
I already wrote down some writing goals a couple of days ago over at the Sub Care forum on eHarl. Then, within 24 hours, my goals changed! So I seems to me important to bear in mind when writing goals to keep them flexible. Some people say very specific, concrete goals work best, measurable goals where it’s easy to say “Yes, I did that”, or “No, I didn’t.” That’s great if you have a totally clear focus. What I found happened was I made the goals, then something changed, became much bigger than I expected if would be, so what I originally planned is going to be impossible to achieve if I do it properly. Maybe one of my goals should be to have a clearer focus!
What I need is to set small, flexible goals, goals I can actually achieve that don’t pre-set me to fail. I already think I suck enough as a writer, without adding failing to achieve unrealistic goals into the mix too! I liked this post from Kitty Bucholtz. It seems wise to me to set goals that are written on water rather than carved in stone.
Sticking with my goal to write story words every day is totally needed, insisting on trying to stick with my goal to complete and sub two new full stories in 2011 is not. That could be counter-productive, given that my WIP (currently two chapters and a plan) just morphed from a 55,000 word category romance to a 90,000 word single title romance – and another sub-plot that’s so perfect I have to include it jumped into my mind literally as I am writing this post. It’s as if having given my story permission to be bigger, it’s doing just that.
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure I have the skills needed to write something of the complexity I’m envisioning. That’s okay. I’m not entirely sure I have the skills to write it as a short category either. What I am going to do is write free of what I think is needed for the Harlequin series I was targeting, and see what I end up with. Trying to write to meet what I perceived to be category requirements just tied me in knots and what I wrote was cliche ridden crap, with cardboard characters just going through the motions in a same old-same old style plot that everyone has seen a million times. I brought nothing new to the table.
It could be that by writing free, I’ll end up with something that actually has some life and originality in it, that could even work for Superromance, the longer (and getting longer again in 2011 – yippee!) category line I love. If not, it will find its home somewhere.
My writing goal for 2011 is to write every day, write without worrying about publishability, and to see what I end up with before I make any decisions what it is or what to do with it. To keep learning and growing as a writer. Oh, and to finish 2011 with a clearer focus.
May we all have a joyous, productive and Call-filled 2011! And may none of us make ourselves miserable by setting unachievable goals. Let’s set goals that stretch us just enough, so we can look back this time next year and celebrate!
Edited to add- I just found this post with some thoughtful and challenging questions about where we are with our writing- may take the time to answer these properly.