My Goals… And Speed.

I feel I should clarify my goals and my writing speed.  Dean’s already warned me to keep my mouth shut in public about how much or how fast I write, and while I’ll probably take his advice and be more vague at Cons and such, this is my blog and I’m not a prevaricating kind of girl *grin*.

First, my goals are just that.  Mine.  They certainly don’t reflect anything but how I want to go about pursuing writing as my career.  I’ve never been a “kinda” person.  I learned to win at poker by playing 2 cent/4 cent limit online 15-20 hours a day, everyday for weeks while reading every source on poker that I could get my hands on (And I still graduated college, a miracle!).  I did this because I liked poker, I was broke, and I hate being crappy at things (and broke).  I took that same mentality to my jobs over the years, too, and it got me stressed-out with 70 work weeks.  I’m not saying it is always a good mindset, this all or nothing.  But it’s mine, and that’s how I am, so I deal with it.

Writing is the same way for me.  I spent 20 years writing stories, showing very few to anyone because I was certain they sucked (and they did, they really did) and very very frustrated that I couldn’t improve.  I was trapped in the “real writers are re-writers” myth and going nowhere.

Then I basically said “fuck it”, applied to an MFA program, started writing more, realized the MFA program was not at all for me (but I learned some tricks and made a couple friends in one of the workshops at the least, so it wasn’t a total waste).  Then I discovered Heinlein’s Rules, had a writer friend point me to Dean Wesley Smith’s website, and suddenly (or so it seemed), I started improving.  Because I was writing. I was writing a lot (well, a lot more anyway).  New stuff. Not picking over draft after draft, but just taking what I thought worked and trying it again. And again. And again.

Writing all this new stuff has opened methods of practicing things I’d never gotten to really try before.  Picking over the same old story again and again didn’t let me try out the techniques I found in the books I love.  But writing a new story did.  I could take that story and write it with Donald E. Westlake’s surprising way of describing things in mind.  Or with Terry Brook’s way of making you love a character and then twisting the knife.  Or Elizabeth Moon’s way of making kick-ass seem normal and flawed and still cool.  Or Michael Connelly’s way of making each victory both awesome and Pyrrhic. Or George RR Martin’s epic feel. I could go on and on.  Writing new stuff lets me practice these things over and over, and if I fail it isn’t a teeth-grinding ordeal anymore because I know that I can just try to fail differently (fail better?) next time instead of knowing I now have to spend the next six months of my life editing and rewriting the failed story.

So, how this relates to speed is two-fold.  One, I want to be the best damn writer I’m capable of being at any given point in time.  The more practice I get in, the better I’ll get (hopefully).  Second, I have a crazy brain full of a million things all the time and writing is the best way I’ve found to let off the pressure.  The faster I write, the sooner I’ll finish any one thing and be able to start another, and the more quiet I might gain inside my head.  So between the two, and for my goals, I want to get faster and more consistent.  For me, because that’s the way I work.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to work up to full eight-hour days writing (which would get me 7,500 to 10,000 words done) because I am also crazy about other things like reading and gaming (rpgs and videogames).  But I do hope to be able to consistently write multiple books a year as well as keep a goodly number of shorts circulating.  And I want to keep my level of practice up, because every time I open a book it seems I find some new thing or idea or technique I want to try in my own work.

So basically to sum up:  I want to get faster with my writing because writing lots is how I practice and I want to practice as much as I can (and hopefully someday sell as much as I can, cause hey, this *is* my career, after all).  That’s it, I’m just long-winded at 4am I guess.

12 Responses to “My Goals… And Speed.”

  1. Alex J. Kane

    This is pretty inspiring, in a weird way. When it comes to goal-setting, you’ve got to be both ambitious and realistic about it. I’ve actually decided to rewrite my own goals sometime in the next couple days, because rejections and publications are ultimately not in my control; only output is. That’s what I need to be doing more of, instead of obsessing over administrative stuff and networking, et cetera. The stories aren’t just going to write themselves.

    Reading is good, though; can’t become a better writer without leaving time for that. I actually find reading to be the biggest source of inspiration for my writing, since my life is far, far duller than my imagination. I live in a agricultural college town in Illinois of around 10,000 people, and work a very boring desk job. School is about the only real-life stimulation I get, which is a sad, sad truth.

    • izanobu

      I’m glad you were inspired, even in if in a weird way 🙂

      As for goals, yeah, I try to keep mine within my power in the short term (write and mail X number of stories/novels etc). For longer term goals I let myself dream a little since I do intend to make a living someday, so it is good to know where I want to be at when it comes to selling things and the more intangible parts of my plans. I just want to make sure my goals are something I have to reach for, something to strive after, because for me at least, doing something like 1 short a month and 1 novel a year wouldn’t be pushing myself at all. That’s what makes goals so personal, it all depends on what you want and where your comfort levels are. 🙂

      • Jeff Baerveldt

        Good discussion on goals and dreams. What makes writing so hard — emotionally and mentally — is that our ultimate goals are completely out of our hands. We have to WAIT for someone else. What’s really helped me is following Dean’s advice and writing down my dreams in one column and my goals in another. It reminds me of what I’m working toward . . . and it reminds me of what I’m able to do.

  2. Thomas K Carpenter

    Alex, I’m a serious goal setter myself. I keep an extensive Excel spreadsheet that tracks my progress (writing and shipping) and gives me lots of stats. If you’d like a copy to help keep you on track let me know.

  3. Thomas K Carpenter

    And of course, you too Izanobu. But for some reason I assume you already have some sort of spreadsheet or other exhaustive system. 🙂

    • izanobu

      For tracking subs, yeah, I have a spreadsheet (multiple ones, actually depending on genre and length).

      For goals, nope. I have them written down in a notebook, and the year’s goals on a sheet of paper to be checked off taped to my computer. I put down daily word count in a calendar when I remember to. That’s about it. I’m not *that* obsessive 😉

  4. Alex J. Kane

    I think I caught the “lazies” today…didn’t write anything, dammit. But my Q3 entry’s just about ready to go in the mail; I’m just waiting on a couple more first readers to give me their two cents’ worth before I ship it off. I think I get overloaded if I write too much, and then I have to take a few days off…wish it wasn’t that way, but I have yet to find the courage to dive into my next short.

    On the bright side, I rekindled my relationship with my guitar; played that thing for like 4 hours today. Days off from work aren’t very productive for me, hehe.

  5. Brad R. Torgersen

    One thing I’ve noticed is that any time you set and/or talk about ambitious goals — fitness goals, writing goals, school goals, etc. — you wind up with two kinds of people. The first kind poo-poo your goals or otherwise find a way to bag on them, mostly because I think people who are lazy and make excuses for it — I am lazy too, I just try not to make any excuses — can’t stand it when they run into anyone who is refusing to capitulate to inertia. When you say to the world, “World, today I am going to conquer something!” sometimes people in the world feel belittled or threatened by that, and they react accordingly.

    The other kind of person says, yeah, right on, this is awesome, and they will cheer you on and use your goals and your ambition as further motivation for their own goals and motivation. Not as a competition per se — though a little friendly competition never hurts — but more as a fellow traveler kind of boosterism: we’re on the same road, we’re striving for the same things, you go girl, etc. So I just want to say that I applaud your ambition and your goals and your wordcount and I think you can’t put the pedal to the metal hard enough. Go!

    • izanobu

      Aw, thanks Brad! It is hard for people not to take things personally (I certainly struggle with that on occasion), even when people are just saying something clearly couched in their own experience as it applies only to themselves. That’s why I try hard to remember to include caveats like “this is how I do it, not for everyone” since I know I come on strong sometimes.

      To me, lazy is when I’m not doing something above the minimum I’m capable of doing. Using that definition for myself has made it easier to get around my own excuses.

      By the way, I love that “World, today I am going to conquer something!” Rather tempted to figure out the latin translation and make it a motto 🙂

  6. Clarifying Myself, Again « A Little Imagination

    […] haven’t read any of my older posts where I try to explain my process/speed/goals etc… I recommend this post.  And again the caveat, everything I say here applies only to me.  It might resonate with others, […]

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