It’s the New Year and, apparently, time for some new plans. It’s funny how we feel compelled to change based on a word and a number that we assign to the earth’s rotation/orbit. Nonetheless, the motivation to be ‘out with the old, in with the new’ isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s a time for us to set goals when it might be hard to think this way during other parts of the year. And we can assess what has been holding us back, needs to change, or should be expanded.
As a writer, how did 2010 go for you? How much did you write? How much did you read? What were the main things that kept you from your goals? What did you do to stay on track? And what will the ‘big change’ in 2011 be for you?
A little hesitant to answer those questions? No worries, I’ll go first.
1. How did 2010 go for me? You know the saying, ‘your own worst critic’? Not to be cliche, but that’s me to the fullest. I started and ended this year working on the same novel. Sure, at the beginning of the year it was just in its hand-written rough draft form and now I’m working on the third-draft. I’ve submitted it to agents and have gotten some good feedback. I started two other novels that I have all but abandoned. All in all, I made progress as a writer, but I don’t think it was enough, and surely not what I had envisioned. Since 2007, I have written a full novel each year, except for 2010. That might be the source of my disappointment…justified or not.
2. How much did I write? And that’s the problem. I feel like I spent the whole year editing. Editing is a necessary evil, but it sure doesn’t compare to the joy of initial creation (for me, anyway). It’s hard for me to say how much new material I actually got down on paper. I know that, even including editing, I was working every day. Sometimes not even every week. And that’s just unacceptable.
3. How much did I read? Kudos to you Holly, for you have done a lot better this year at achieving one of MY goals. I set out to read 50 books this year (wrote them all down, too). I’ve done about 20. I really enjoy reading, but it’s tough with a full-time job and a full-time hobby (writing, duh). For example, when I breezed through the Hunger Games books, I was writing considerably less, though I felt like I was gaining useful ‘reading experience.’ It’s a trade-off, at least until I am able to write full time (and who knows when that will be). Audiobooks have helped along the way, and I highly recommend them for writers who are slacking on their reading because of time constraints. Despite falling short, I actually think that how much I read in 2010 would be a good goal to shoot for in 2011. It is right for the place I’m in now and still lets me absorb a lot of different stories and authors.
4. What were the main things that kept me from my goals? TIME! Or the lack thereof. Also, procrastination. Internet. Sometimes I think the Internet was created just to (*) distract aspiring writers. For example, you see that asterisk in the previous sentence? I kid you not, that’s where I switched over to one of my many other tabs and checked my e-mail. It wasn’t even really a conscious decision. I was caught for a second on what I would say next and immediately found myself browsing the web. I actually made a rule for working at my writing desk when I first got it: no Internet! Wi-fi turned OFF. Well, that lasted about a month…The bottom line is, some things that consume time are necessary (work, eating, bathing), so if all my free-time is taken by things like the Internet…I can’t really complain, can I?
5. What did I do to stay on tack? There are a couple of times in 2010 when I was particularly productive. The first is when I was submitting to agents. I edited hard everyday and prepped so many query letters you’d think I was trying to sell 10 books. There was a real sense of urgency during that time and I took advantage of it. Another was joining a writing group. Granted, 10 pages a week isn’t that much writing, but at least it ensured I didn’t go for that long without writing at all. It also helps to have that outside opinion so that I could either be encouraged that what I’m creating is the shit, or motivated to do better (see, it’s win-win!).
6. What will the big change in 2011 be for me? Okay, I hope you’re sitting down. You are? Good. Because I have a very ambitious goal. One that I will most likely fail at, but hey, why aim low? I spent all of 2010 editing, so my big change is to write new material…and a lot of it. In January I want to finish editing my manuscript and resend it to agents. That done, my plan is to write 3-4 novels this year. One every 3-4 months. And after each, there is no editing, there is no pondering over its existence, just going to the next one. My reasons for such a ridiculous undertaking? A) A writer needs practice. I don’t feel like I’m getting enough practice with editing so much. Even if all the novels I write are ultimately unsellable, at least I know in 2011 I will have gotten tons of practice. B) It sets a good writing goal, and maybe I can get back to daily writing. Think about it. A typical novel is about 80,000-100,000 words. Times that by 4 = 320-400k. 365 days in a year, that’s roughly about 1000 words a day. That’s a reasonable goal. For example, this blog post is about that length and I did it in 30 minutes. Granted, writing fiction will sometimes be this quick and other times be three hours of agonizing brain-lock, but at least I have something to shoot for. C) I think I’ve become too caught up in trying to make successful what I’ve already written. Who knows what other great ideas I have waiting inside. I owe it to myself to find out.
It’s the New Year. Celebrate it! But when the smoke clears, really think about what 2010 was for you. What worked well? What needs to be changed? Take a step out of your comfort zone (or, if you’re like me, finally step back IN your comfort zone). It’s only a year, and at the end of it you won’t be much older than you are now. So don’t worry about falling behind or that a different direction might delay your success. So what’s it going to be?