Saturday, January 05, 2008

Last Word on Goals

It's now the 5th January so the goals thing is done. You've either worked yours out, or you're not going to bother. Kristi reminded me that setting too many goals is often our downfall. They seem so unattainable and the list so huge that we give up in despair. So my strategy this year is to have two writing goals - two general ones - and then set two-monthly deadlines. What is often left out of all the goal-setting and small steps advice is that most writers need deadlines.

Been meaning to write that short story all year? Nothing like a big competition closing date to get it done. Been thinking about rewriting that novel but never seem to find the time? A conference with a manuscript consultation appointment will move you every time! So I figure if I set small goals every two months - not too many - I will move forward. Small goals are things like rewriting something and submitting it by XX date. A magazine submission. A certain number of chapters revised. An article written and put on my website.

What are my two general goals? One is to develop a new method for myself of revision. I feel as if my revising of stories and novels in the past has been haphazard. Often I'll sit down and start a novel all over again because I can't figure out what needs fixing or how to fix it. Some people would say that's the only way to revise, but I'm not so sure. The revisions I've done of two novels for publication (with the help of editors) in 2007 showed me that, with editorial guidance, I can rewrite to a much higher level, but sometimes I'm not able to do it sufficiently well on my own, i.e. before the manuscript goes to an editor.

A couple of years ago, I felt the same about my plotting - it was a weak area and I made it my goal that year to read and work on that aspect. It paid off. Now I think I can do it with revision. The weird thing is, I can show any student or fellow writer how to rewrite and make their work stronger (comes from ten years of teaching) but it's still hard to do for myself. I've started reading Revision by Kit Reed, and have another book lined up after that.

My other general goal is to write more regularly. My strategy for this is to have several things on the go at once - several different things: a novel, poems, a picture book, an article. If I don't have time to work on the novel, I will be aiming to spend at least 15 minutes or more on a poem or something shorter. Linda Sue Park's two pages every day, no matter what, is the kind of routine that makes writing a habit that's impossible to break, rather than something extra crammed into your life. So my novel projects will continue to move slowly forward, but so will other things.


Lorraine said...

Sounds good - achievable.

Kristi Holl said...

This is good advice for anyone working on any goals, I think. Finally today I have time to pare down the list of "want to" ideas into a few firm goals and get them written and posted on my bulletin board. I like your idea of choosing a couple goals with deadlines to focus on, achieve those, then move on to more goals. Time to put into actual practice all this stuff we know!