Front Page, Musings

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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Front Page, Musings

Weekly Musing: 2017 Goals

Happy New Year one and all! I hope for everyone’s sanity 2017 is a much kinder year to us all. And since we are now in a new year, it’s resolutions time. I’ve always disliked the word resolution because I associate it with everyone getting super excited believing they will achieve their goals only to pretty much give up by the end of January. Instead, I like to use the word goal as I think it lends itself to being more obtainable.

Because I view this time of year as a chance to set goals, I’ve been thinking of what would be most achievable for me.

As always, I have the continuing goal of working to improve my writing. But one thing I want to stay away from is getting caught up in all the posts and articles of writing advice. Knowledge is power and while I enjoy learning, too much information for me has negative side effects. I noticed I was getting to the point where a voice in my mind developed overanalyzing if what I was working on was worth it. In order to save what little sanity I actually have, I’m going to reduce the amount of time I spend reading about the writing craft. After all, shouldn’t my time be used to actually write, which is the best way to get better.

Another goal is when I get to the next stage in my career, that’s when I will start looking for information. To read and try to absorb information about things I’m not ready for just feeds into my natural ability to overthink.

One of the big things I want to accomplish this year is to have a “finished enough” draft of the historical fiction novel I’ve been working on for years. To me this means finally get the plot the way I envision it, to do justice to the main character the way he sounds in my mind, and to be polished enough to reveal it to the world for feedback.

Because I took the last few months of 2016 off from submitting short stories for publication, I will start submitting again. In conjunction with this, I’m going to work on composing new stories. A wrinkle I’ve added is organizing markets into ones which offer a flat fee vs. those who pay by the word. I want to go after the higher paying markets first and work my way down. I figure this strategy is a way to recognize my work has more value than I give it credit for.

In 2016 I was unable to attend any writer conferences or workshops due to timing and funding concerns. This year I would like to attend at least one, hopefully two. Unfortunately, one which had been taking place where I live decided last year to suspend operation indefinitely. On the other hand, I’m fortunate to live in an area which has lots of opportunities.

I’d also like to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. Hopefully I’ll get that historical fiction novel finished enough by then to take a chance on drafting a new piece. My brain is teeming with ideas and characters that are dying to be let out of their cage.

Finally, I hope in 2017 I will finally be able to truly let myself go on the page. To be comfortable allowing the characters be who they are no matter how unlikable they may be at times. To be dark, sad, and angry. To be light, fluffy, and in love. I know I hold back on the page because I allow myself to absorb others’ criticisms of when authors go to uncomfortable places or make a character unlikable even when it is justified and well done. I struggle with not wanting to be conventional, yet desiring to be published and seeing conventional is what seems to sell and is embraced by the general reading public. I guess what I’m trying to say is I want to find my voice and style.

That’s it for my 2017 goals. I hope whatever your goals or resolutions are, you find the energy to keep going. Realize too that it’s okay if you stumble and take a break. So good luck to everyone out there and Happy New Year!

Musings

Weekly Musing: Reflections and Resolutions

As many human beings do this time of year, I’m full of reflection upon the past year and thinking about the upcoming year. Instead of breaking down into two posts full of sentimental thought and pretentious sage advice, I thought I’d combine my reflections upon 2015 and resolutions for 2016 into one post.

2015 Reflections

It’s been difficult to gather my thoughts to think about what I’ve learned this year yet when I sit down and truly think I realize I have. Every small kernel of knowledge has the potential to lead to some bigger improvement.

The bulk of my growth in 2015 grew out of writing and revising a novel. For me there hasn’t been an easy part of writing a novel. Getting the rough draft done felt like it was going to be the easiest part but until I got to the end, it felt like it may very well would be the hardest. Writing a book takes a lot more energy than a lot of people realize. It’s a marathon and there were many points throughout where I felt like I didn’t have any more to give. At times I gave myself a break and stepped away for a day or two while other times I soldiered through.

But it wasn’t until I started actually revising it that I realized the rough draft was the easy part. It’s not so much having a problem cutting scenes or dropping plot points, it’s the frustrating realization that all those hours spent writing the rough draft was for naught. It also amazed how much I had yet to write to shore up the plot. I knew this would be a lot of hard work but even I underestimated the scope of it.

I appreciated the time and effort authors put into their work but honestly until I started going through the process myself, I don’t think I truly understood. Now I have even more respect. At this point in my career I can’t even fathom how authors can juggle multiple novels at various stages of development all at the same time. Of course having a contract and a deadline to meet helps tremendously.

There have been several smaller but no less impactful lessons learned last year. I’ve learned to pay more attention to what makes up a chapter. I know that may sound odd but it’s one of those things I never really thought about until 2015. It’s been helpful that many of the pieces submitted to my critique group are chapters from novels in progress. Reading those showed me what should be in a chapter as well as length. Determining chapter length is one of those things that I haven’t actually seen much about but I get the impression it’s one of those things you just get a feel for.

In 2015 I strived to get better at where to begin a story as well as to determine the ending before I physically start writing. I’ve always struggled with beginnings and endings and while that is still an area of concern for me, I think I’m getting better at it. Again, through my critique group and plain reading, I’m getting better at understanding what makes for a good beginning and ending.

Endings are still tricky for me. Personally I don’t mind something more open-ended but most people and most advice out there don’t like that. I think it’s why I wind up killing people off. It’s the only way I can think of at this point to end a story. Something I need to work on since I know that’s certainly not the only way to end a story.

One of the things I learned in 2015 is that I don’t think I’m capable of writing a short story under 3,000 words. At first I thought this would hamper my ability to get published. The reality of my style, I guess, is that I am wordy. Always have been. What I need to work on is making sure that my natural wordiness isn’t disguising deficiencies in storytelling ability.

That’s been helpful is discovering the website Submission Grinder which has an enormous list of publishing opportunities. As I combed through it I discovered there are plenty of place which accept short stories over 3,000 words. This led me to feel free to write a story to whatever length felt appropriate but then through revision figure out how to maintain its integrity while keeping it within a prescribed word count.

2015 also saw me keep track of my word count. I’m kind of odd since I’m a slow writer yet I have a tendency to write a decent amount of words in a day. Still nothing compared to some of my writer friends who put my average to shame. As of the end December 31st, I wrote over 300,000 words. Since this was the first time I’ve tracked my output, I have no idea if this is a good number or not. Still, I’m proud of that number. I know it’s probably a lot lower than what many writers do but I’m okay with that.

2016 Resolutions

Or goals as I’d rather call them. Besides the standard goal of read and write more and continue to develop myself as a writer through workshops and conferences, below are the more specific goals for 2016.

More diversity in my reading. I’ve always been one of those readers who really doesn’t look at the author’s photo on the inside jacket of the book. What differences does it make what the author looks like? It’s the story I’m interested in, not the gender or color of the author. That being said, I know that I definitely fall into the category of reader whose bookshelves, both virtual and literal, are filled with predominately white authors. The issue of diversity in publishing is a complicated and nuanced topic which is why in this new year I will actively seek out books by authors from a more diverse background than my own.

Another goal is for me to up my total word count. I hesitate to put an actual number since it will be arbitrary anyway. Plus life will throw me curveballs but I do hope to increase my production for the year.

Which leads me to resolve to write more short stories. First off, I met my last year’s goal of selling 4 stories, 2 of which should be coming out this year. Since I don’t write a lot of short stories to begin with, this means I need to write more of them if I want to sell more. I still consider myself more of a novel writer and that will continue to be the focus however, short stories are a great way of finishing something in a short amount of time.

Speaking of novels, my last major goal this year is to revise my historical fiction novel at least one more time. However, I will take my time with this revision. I’m thinking six months to really be firm in with what the plot is and what events I want to focus on.

Well, there it is. My reflections and resolutions. I hope that everyone’s 2016 is better than 2015. Happy New Year!