Monday 17 November 2008

Setting Writing Goals

Goals are good to have: they keep me focused, they keep me hungry.

However, what's been a hard psychological adjustment for me to make as I've worked at my writing is that any writing goals I set must be linked to my personal satisfaction. Goals that are based on external factors lead to frustration and self-doubt.

When I started writing I had one goal and one goal only: to get published (which, of course, in my mind led inexorably to goals 2 and 3: make a fortune and become an award-winning, famous author.) Evolving as a writer, goals 1, 2 and 3 shifted to a kind of "wish list for writers". My writing goals have become smaller, practical and more personal.

A list of my top three goals as a writer would now look like this:

1. Finish unfinished business. Continue to re-write my current manuscript until I know that any more work on it will be wrong for the ms. Don't ask me to tell you how I'll know when to stop working; I'll just go on the inner sense of "knowing".

2. Complete the first draft of the new novel I've been brooding on. Too many authors never write another book beyond their first. While I know I can write more than one complete manuscript (I have seven unpublished catagory romances under my belt) I need to prove to myself that I can write more than one novel in this voice and style. Why that's so important is because the novel I'm working on now is the first in a completely different genre (book club fiction). I've finally found my unique writing voice and it's vital that I continue to test it.

3. Write something creative everyday. A blog entry. A haiku. A paragraph. It is a discipline or a habit, but it keeps me focused on my goal of being a writer as well as keeping the creative juices running.

This re-shuffling of how I perceive my goals as a writer has lead to a new goal that is, to a certain degree, semi-reliant on external factors. I need to find an agent. I've come to realise that an agent is a must. I want to write. I don't want to deal with the sordid world when I can lose myself in a manuscript. I like to play nice and I'll happily pay any agent's fee when I know that agent has a gift I lack: objectivity about my book combined with the ability of a pit-bull (with or without lipstick) to fight for my book to the bitter end. In return, the agent will have my loyalty, my hard work, my commitment to professionalism and whatever else they need from me. Except my cats and my husband. Those I keep.

The top three items on my "Writer's Wish List" remain the same. But, in truth, I'd be happy with only item #1: becoming a Published Author. The others would be very nice to have, but would hold value only as an indication of how my stories touch the hearts of my readers.

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