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Weekly Musing: 2018 Goals

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Happy New Year, everyone! We’ve entered the time of year when everyone sits down to write out resolutions. While I dislike the term resolution, I prefer goal, I am not immune to the desire to reflect upon who I am currently and who I want to be as I go forward. As I ponder what kind of person I’d like to be, I have also been reflecting upon what kind of writer I’d like to be. A theme which emerged both in my personal and professional goals is a desire to heal myself and be kinder to myself. It is my hope that as I become more comfortable with myself I will become more comfortable as a writer.

Once again, I feel my goals are rather modest and achievable. I’m sure like last year’s goals priorities could change.

Finish rough draft of current manuscript and do at least one rewrite: I am hopeful I can finish a rough draft of my WIP either by the end of this month or early February. It’s been a struggle to get the words down. It always is and more so when my research wasn’t complete before I started the rough draft. But, that was a conscious decision because I wanted to focus more on the story rather than the historical background. Before I can tackle a rewrite, though, I will need to do more research. I’ve been writing notes to myself about specific things I’ll need to look up. Again, this is all in an effort to not overdo the research and torpedo myself in irrelevant details.

Rethinking my blog: In addition to changing the visual look of my blog, which I hope you are enjoying, I am looking to cut back on the number of blog posts. I started doing this about midway through last year and found it was something which freed up my time to concentrate more on novel writing. It can be taxing to come up with an idea for each week and while I do have a list of possible blog topics, some topics require research. I also want the flexibility to post when I have the time and inclination. At a minimum I think I’ll have at least 2 posts each month and they’ll still come out on Saturdays.

I am also officially eliminating my monthly book review. I don’t know how value added it was.

Another thing I’m hoping to do is experiment more with adding in pictures, probably a combination of stock photos and my own, that have some kind of connection with content.

New writers group: Very recently I discovered there is finally a writers group which meets at my local library. Before I used to attend a group located in the city I live next to which at times was a bit of a drive.

I haven’t attended any meetings yet as all December meetings were cancelled due to the holiday. I am interested to see how it goes. The biggest factor to me for how comfortable I am in a group is the combination of people. Is there a variety of skill level or is everyone about equal? What are the personality types? Do people give constructive feedback? Will the group prove to be useful for my development?

Letting myself go on the page: This goes back to my overall desire to be more comfortable with myself. I don’t want to be afraid anymore of having characters go to dark places or light places. I don’t want to worry about if what I’m writing fits a trend or will make people 100% comfortable and unoffended. Writing is an expression of thoughts and feelings. Honestly, I feel like when I was writing more for myself and writing something I wanted to personally read, the muse was present, and the writing was more relaxed. I’d like to get back to that.

Having an organized book reading list: This one is also a personal goal. In addition to having a target number of books I’d like to read, I decided to look at my bookshelves and pick out books I’ve had for years, but have never read. I also wrote down a few books I’ve being wanting to read, but keep forgetting to pick up.

Below is the list of books I absolutely want to read in 2018. I tried to give myself a mixture of classics in addition to genre books.

The Works of Oscar Wilde

1984 by George Orwell (this is a re-read)

The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (this is a re-read)

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

The Man in the High Castle by Phillip K. Dicks

House of Cards by Michael Dobson

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

The Tchaikovsky Finale by Darin Kennedy

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Winter World by Ken Follett

Column of Fire by Ken Follett

Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

Artemis by Andy Weir

The Iron King by Maurice Druon

The Works of H.P. Lovecraft

 

It’ll be interesting to see how many of these goals I’ll accomplish. Like everyone else who makes a list, I’m hopeful I can meet them. Good luck to every writer out there in achieving your goals this year!

 

 

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Weekly Musings

Weekly Musing: Reflections and Resolutions

Due to moving, I was unable to get to a couple of musings I would have posted at the appropriate times so now I’m combining them into one post.

During December, that month for reflection it seems, I thought about what I had learned about writing and myself during 2013. Here’s what I discovered:

1) I am still a perfectionist and it is hurting my creativity. I think I’ve gotten better about letting the Inner Critic go more during initial drafts but I still battle my natural tendency to want to get everything right the first time. This inhibits my creativity because I can physically and emotionally feel my voice being stifled. Ideas are shot down before they are even first committed to paper or worse, rewritten several times internally before I get them down on paper.
2) Reading all the information I can get my hands on regarding the craft and business of writing does not mean it will necessarily make my writing better. It just means I know more about those areas but that knowledge is no substitute for actual writing. Only writing can make my writing better.
3) I need to stop reading about writing so much and read for fun. Just the simple act of reading is supposed to be one of the best ways to improve one’s writing due to absorbing what others do that work or don’t work.
4) Writing is still about expression, first and foremost. Worrying about if it is ‘marketable enough’ is not something I should be focusing on at this moment.
5) There are too many ‘rules’ out there. If I were to follow them to the letter, which I did try to do, it made for dull writing and even duller reading.
6) I am still fumbling around for what works best for me. By the end of the year I had hoped that I would have a better understanding of what the best writing process is for me. I was sadly mistaken. I think I might very well be a bit more confused than I was before. Or maybe I’m not. Perhaps each project is its own best process and there is no standard for me.
7) For the first time in my life, there may not be a standard process or path for me to follow. To a certain degree, I control my destiny. Or at least how much I write and what I want to do with each piece. There is no clear path to success and I’ll have to make my own path because learning of others’ paths to success isn’t what’s going to work for me.
8) I can handle rejection better than I can handle acceptance. I am fully prepared to face rejection zillions of times for each acceptance I get. I know it’s not personal, which I can handle. But getting one piece accepted for publication and then another just left me happy but numb. It’s great, of course, but at the same time now I have that pressure of ‘Will this be it? When will the next one come?’ Nothing really prepared me for feedback, positive and negative, from family and friends who now had access to something to I’d written. This is me on public display, metaphorically naked, with people given access to a sliver of what floats around in my mind. I’m a very private person and introvert so that kind of exposure is far harder to handle.

I hesitate to use the word ‘resolution’ because it conjures up images of empty promises people make to themselves, sometime to others, that quickly get broken. Goal is a much better word as I ponder what I want to achieve this year. Some things are always going to be on my list: read more, write more, and keep learning. Below are my 2014 goals:

1) Finish more projects. I noticed a nasty trend toward the latter part of 2013. I would start a story but rarely finished it. I think it was because of an enormous move across the country and my concentration was all over the place. I’m still not certain if I want to go back and attempt to complete some of the stories I abandoned or just get a fresh start.
2) Have enough completed stories in my arsenal so that I can submit more. According to my database, yes I have one because I’m that big of a dork, I submitted my work 18 times. Getting 2 stories accepted out of 18 submittals is a great percentage because just having 1 thing accepted is great. That being said, if I want to give myself more chances to be published, I need to have more finished stories and I need to get myself out there more. I’ve been trying to keep my eye out for opportunities and will sit down in the next few days with my calendar to note submittal deadlines.
3) Be nicer to myself. Somehow I need to learn how to keep that perfectionist, evil bitch at bay and just relax. Some of my best rough drafts come when I just don’t think about anything but the words and allow myself to be open to whatever comes.
4) Be more careful when I edit and revise. I need to figure out if I should edit first, then revise or revise first, then edit. I need to take more time to comb over every sentence to make them as strong as possible. I need to look for spots where I can bring out concrete details to more fully immerse the reader into the world as it came to me.
5) Revise my 2013 novel at least once. This includes the research I noted I need to do in order to flesh out the world it is set in.
6) Finally start the draft of what I had intended to be the first novel I would write.
7) Try to attend at least one conference.

We’ll see how these go. I’ll do a follow up next year comparing what my wishes were vs. reality.

Here’s hoping to a great 2014 for everyone who reads my blog; I appreciate it and have been tickled that even people I’m not related to read my blog. Thank you for reading my little corner of the universe.

Weekly Musings

Weekly Musing: Score goal(s) and Command Thyself!

Each Saturday it is my hope to post an entry called Weekly Musing. In those posts, I want to discuss some topic that has been bubbling inside me. In trying to come up with this week’s musing, I struggled to find such a topic. This despite the fact I have a list of about 42 topics to choose from but none of them jumped out at me. I was in the process of updating my goal list for the next 5 years when I realized that could be a source of discussion as well as a list of commandments I’ve given myself.

Before I started writing, I never believed in 5 year plans. That always struck me as something born from a corporate culture. Something your manager asks you at your yearly performance evaluation or in an interview. But I reconsidered that position last year and constructed a 5 year plan. It is a fluid document and indeed it has changed and evolved greatly from the first draft. I believe I must have amended the goals for 2012 at least 10 times before the end of the year.

I was looking at it the other day and realized several of my priorities have changed. The more I learn and grow as a writer, the more I let a whim or thought dictate my work, the greater the need to revise my goals. Many of the goals repeat themselves over all 5 years: keep learning, complete rough draft of Project X, revise draft of Project Y, start research for Project Z, attend conferences/workshops, etc. The most important one of my goals, though, is to KEEP LEARNING. A theme I have read and heard about time and time again, even from established authors about to come out with their umpteenth book. It’s a good thing I genuinely enjoy learning because if I didn’t, the thought of evolving as a writer might be off-putting.

My goals for this year are simple: join the local writers group (done), start attending the local chapter of the PNWA (done), revise a story that has been a thorn in my side for over a year (thankfully done!), workout an outline for a possible novel (done), continue research for my book set in early 15th century Wales (work in progress), do an outline for said 15th century Wales book (not done), and as a way to torture myself, participate in NaNoWriMo and spend the entire month of November producing what will probably be a horrendously crappy rough draft of said Wales book.

Subsequent years I have a lot of goals revolving around drafting, researching, revising, outlining, and, fingers crossed, publishing my work. But in an effort to not overwhelm myself, I’ve scheduled looking into publishing to at least 2015. Personally I feel I’m not ready to look into the business side of writing. I’d rather just concentrate on learning and getting better.

Now for the list of commandments I came up for myself last year. I originally started off with 10. Seemed to be a good historically sound jumping off point, but it has blossomed into 12 commandments. The idea for these commandments arose from nuggets of advice picked up from a variety of sources. Some I actually came up with on my own. My list of commandments are as follows:

1) I shall write to express, not impress.
2) I shall write the rough draft with the door closed but will keep the door open for revisions.
3) I shall trust my instincts.
4) I shall not get bogged down in negative thoughts about my talent.
5) I shall write for the sake of writing, not for money or fame (although the money wouldn’t be that bad to have).
6) I shall not be discouraged by negative reactions to my work. Not everyone is going to like what I write. I certainly don’t like everything I read.
7) I shall realize that not every idea will work and need to realize when to just let a piece go.
8) I shall have my own work schedule and timeline and will not allow myself to feel like I am behind.
9) I shall have patience with myself (by far the hardest commandment!).
10) I shall not compare myself to others. I have my own voice and perspective to share with the world.
11) I shall not fear nor feel shame in my ideas and how I choose to express those ideas.
12) I shall write with LOVE.