Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Old and The New

I finished the memoir on the 8th of January. I feel like I had another child; I keep having people ask me the stats. For my completed clean draft, it shook out to 33 chapters and approximately 162k words. Yes, that’s a big book. I’m somewhat heartened to consider it only took me a year to write enough words to fill two average fiction books. And yes, there’s a lot more work yet to be done. Right now I’m going to do my very best to keep it out of sight and out of mind until the beginning of February so I can bask in relief and regain some perspective. It needs to marinate in its own juices while I have myself a nice, cleansing mental fast from it. In the mean time, I figured I would report on 2010 and lay out my plans for 2011.

I’ll be completely honest. Up until last year, I’d never bothered with New Years resolutions of any kind. It wasn’t so much that I was lazy (I hope)…I just have a thing for statistics. And with something like an 8% success rate on those in the general populace actually accomplishing their resolutions (and with 30% broken in the first week of the year), I didn’t see much point in the investment. If I wanted to set myself up to fail, I’d just as soon tackle the achievement of world peace, or getting old people to drive somewhere close to the speed limit.

Almost precisely one year ago, I happened to find myself eavesdropping on a handful of women in Barns & Noble who were having a writer’s goal-setting meeting. The difference between a ‘resolution’ and a ‘goal’ suddenly clicked with me.
One of these lovely ladies (who have since become my RWA guild sisters) offered me a copy of her personal goals for the year and advised me to select 5 or 6 for myself that might apply. Being inherently gung-ho and gleefully clueless to the complexities of the writing industry, I more than doubled her recommendation and dove headlong into the mix. As this is a reflection on my last crazy-but-productive year, I’m going to publicly list the goals I had set and whether or not I met them:

*Enter at least 2 writing contests. - (Check! Still waiting on the hopefully less-brutal results of #2.)
*Write EVERY day (shooting for 600 words, unless it’s poetry) - (Check! …mostly.)
*Complete first draft of Memoir: Once Upon a Road Trip - (Check! …just 8 days late.)
* Start a blog and keep up with it regularly – (Er…um…)
*Maintain my monthly Livejournal – (Negative. Something had to give.)
*Read at least 10 books for fun – (Check!)
*Set a top 5 priority list and review it regularly – (Not even close.)
*Look into getting an agent once manuscript is complete – (Some research done. Decided to carry that into the middle of 2011.)
*Attend an online workshop. (Check! I actually managed two of them.)
*Read and study: Writing the Breakout Novel – (Half done. Postponed until I begin my fiction writing.)
*Read: Goal, Motivation, Conflict –Deb Dixon – (Nay.)
*Read: Heros and Heroines – Tami D. Cowden – (Nope.)
*Go through all Writer’s Digest magazines and highlight helpful material - (Check!)
*Create Business/Calling cards – (Check! Ordered 500, and have given out 5. >.<)

I think I did reasonably well, for having set myself up with minimal accountability. This year, you can ALL hold me to my goals if you so choose. Some are carry-over from last year -- some are new or based on my more recently expanded knowledge of the industry:

*Read at least 2 books on revision and self-editing.
*Macro revision of memoir; eliminate all known plot and flow issues.
*Micro revision of memoir; polish with a line-by-line review.
*Recruit reliable beta-readers and make adjustments based on consensus input.
*Begin agent querying in by the middle of the year.
*Attend 2 workshops.
*Enter 2 contests for feedback purposes.
*Finish reading: Writing the Breakout Novel.
*Read: Goal, Motivation, Conflict –Deb Dixon.
*Read: Heroes and Heroines – Tami D. Cowden.
*Read at least 15 books just for fun.
*Write at least 500 words a day, regardless of what it goes towards.
*Continue going through all Writer’s Digest magazines, highlighting helpful material.
*Study the Sci-fi genre and read 5 well-rated, recent examples.
*World-build and create an outline for my intended sci-fi series.
*Keep up with the blog at least once a month.

Though my list appears longer, I’ve actually lightened my load overall. I’ve come a long way in learning what is reasonable for me to accomplish. As I was teetering on the razor edge of sanity at certain points in the last year, I’m striving for more balance this time around. A writer cannot live on words alone. Personally, I appreciate the concept that humans are triune beings, comprised of body, spirit and soul(the soul itself being an amalgamation of mind, will and emotions.) While writing is a desire and passion of my soul, my narrow striving in that direction admittedly left me neglecting my spiritual life as well as the health of my body. I’ve grown so much as a writer in the last year, but it’s been a lopsided growth in the grand scheme of things. I’m well overdue to adjust my approach. Here are four simple things I’ve tacked on to my goals to hopefully help mitigate this, which I will keep track of via calendar:

*20-30 minute walks every-other day.
*Take at least 1 month of Krav Maga (For the exercise as well as the experience.)
*Join a bible study/fellowship group.
*Watch online messages at least once a week.

Resolutions tend to be vague and fanciful. But a goal is specific, realistic and obtainable. Resolutions are made in private or wistfully mentioned at the beginning of the year with no one being obligated to follow up or hold people to their declaration. Goals are measurable via the results you have to show for your efforts along the way, and more likely to be attained when the one making them is accountable to someone else. Got some goals in mind for the year? Write them down, and then collect a few trusted accomplices …er…comrades that care about you enough to hold you to them. (Yes, real friends do butt in from time to time.)

So, if you’ve had the patience to get this far, it’s time to weigh in. What are your balanced goals for this year? And what is your plan for working toward them?


  1. Wow! What a fabulous year. You accomplished a lot and you finished your memoir. So please for you. I love your new goal list for 2011. I know you'll tackle them head on and meet them. I also love your commitment to spirit and body. I agree wholeheartedly with that commitment. We cannot be strong writers if our souls and our bodies are in tatters.


  2. You've set up some really great goals for the new year, RedPeril, and address your spiritual side too. That's so very important. Always remember, "if Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." ;)

    Keep everything in perspective as the year progresses and be true to yourself. If you can do that, you'll go farther than you ever thought you could go.

  3. Christine: Thanks lady! :) I can't thank you enough for providing me with the prototype and urging me into the fold. You did me a great honor by taking me and my dream seriously when I probably looked like some flaky kid.

    Katherine: And if Mama is half-crazed, everybody seems to seek shelter under furniture. >.< I really do need to be more fair to my family this year. I was getting pretty darn snappish there toward the end, and that wasn't fair to anyone. The cats still freeze when they see me coming, and that just makes them more infuriating as obstacles. ;)

  4. You have come a long way-- and you will go far. I love your goals.
    I think February is a good month to start things. I think that is where I'm headed.

    Just think- Serendipity!

    One of my favorite words!

  5. M.V.Freeman: Thanks so much! :D I think there's something to be said for decompressing. It's funny to me how trying -not- to think about the book is already helping me to stumble across ways of making it better.

    LOL! It's -really- quite funny of you to mention... I've loved that word for years. Not an easy concept for me, but one I try to keep close by using it as a name for every computer I've owned. For my birthday, I shall be bringing home: Serendipity III.
    Hey, they kept rebuilding Babylon, didn't they? ;)