Monday, January 18, 2010

2009 - Year in Review

It’s January, the start of a new year, the time to look forward and make plans and goals for the year ahead. It’s also time to look back at what was accomplished, or not accomplished, over the past 12 months. I’m a little afraid to look back over my goals for 2009 to see how I did, but I need to do it. How else do I measure if I made any progress towards my goals?

My first step was to dig out my goals for 2009. When I couldn’t find them right away, I realized I had already made a mistake. I probably should have put them somewhere where I could easily find and refer to them over the year.

Most of my goals related directly to my writing. (That’s strange. I usually have at least one about losing weight.) My goals were as follows:

- To finish and send my short story “Wings of Fire” and novella “Burning Love” out before I left for holidays on Feb.22/09
- To finish “Welcome to Paradise” by May 1 and submit to a publisher by Aug.31/09
- Rework “There goes the Groom” by Dec.31/09
- New story to be plotted by Dec. 31/09

So how did I do? Well, I did finish “Wings of Fire” in the allotted time. My writing group, the Saskatchewan Romance Writers, is hoping to do an anthology of “Saskatoon” stories and this short story is my contribution. So I get a big check mark for that one! Yay!

I also completed, submitted, edited and sold “Burning Love” to The Wild Rose Press, and it will be released on January 20, 2010. Double yay! Another check mark!

Now for the not so yay things. I did not complete “Welcome to Paradise” by May 1 and I haven’t submitted it anywhere. A first draft is done but it still needs work.

I didn’t rework “There Goes the Groom”. In fact, I haven’t even looked at it. This was the second in what I hoped would be a series, but it got stalled somewhere along the way and I haven’t been able to revive it. It still awaits on my hardrive.

When I said I wanted to plot a new story by Dec.31/09, at the time I meant a brand new story, something I haven’t work on before. Instead, I pulled out an old idea. I believe I began “Twice in a Lifetime”, my WW2 story, a few years ago before abandoning it. It required a lot of research, and I didn’t know where to go with it. I began working on it again this year, and I’m about 40,000 words into it. I guess I can give myself a checkmark for this one. Another of the goals I set for myself was to overcome my fear of research, and finding information for this story has helped with that. I guess I’m not as enthusiastic about my checkmark here because the novel is not finished, and I know it will require much more work.

I had a couple of goals relating to finding time for writing:

- To protect writing time and not squander it by doing housework etc. during that time.
- To be more productive and not let distractions (like TV) take me away from writing.

With these goals, I think I have to give myself a thumbs down. I had quite a productive first half of the year. From January to the end of July, I wrote pretty much everything I mentioned above. But from August to December, my production dwindled to almost nothing. The only thing I wrote were blogs. And I’m still finding it difficult to back away from the TV. Other distractions sidelined me as well. Normally, I write during the day, preferably mornings. But I was so busy with my day jobs this fall that I was at work most mornings. And afternoons. I continue to find it hard to write when I’m tired, upset or worried. I doubt I will ever be able to change that.

All in all, I think I’ll give myself about 55% for 2009. On second thought, I was part of the successful first year of the Prairie Chicks blog, so I’ll up my mark to 65%.

So now it’s time to look forward. I’ll use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal setting system again this year: I’ll try to make my goals Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

Goals for 2010:

- Complete edits on “Welcome to Paradise” by April 30, 2010. Submit to agent by June 30, 2010.
- Finish first draft of “Twice in a Lifetime” by June 30, 2010. Work on polishing and having it critiqued to Dec.31, 2010.
- Rework “There Goes the Groom” by July 31, 2010.
- Write the first draft of the third story in the series, “Always a Bridesmaid”, by Dec.31, 2010

Am I being too ambitious and maybe a little unrealistic, considering I didn’t exactly burn up my computer with all the words I wrote last year? Perhaps. But I also need to push myself and set goals that are a challenge. I think I also have to be prepared to amend the goals during the year if I change direction, or if any of my goals have proven to be either too difficult or too easy. And this year I’m going to put them someplace where I can check on them more frequently!

About changing goals: I originally wrote this blog in early January, and then inspiration hit. One of my publishers, The Wild Rose Press, is currently running a contest. The criteria is fairly simple: write a novella length mystery/suspense of 20,000 to 65,000 words about a blue diamond. I’ve known about this since at least October, but nothing came to me. And then suddenly I had an idea. So my revised goal is:

- To complete a first draft of “Flawless” during this week’s annual BIAW for members of the Saskatchewan Romance Writers.
- To finish the stuff I've already started!

So, gentle readers, what are your goals for 2010? Care to name one here? It can relate to writing or to any other aspect of your life. Or can you give us a piece of advice about goal setting, or perhaps a link to an interesting website on goal setting?


Janet said...

I beg to differ, Jana! I would say you had a very successful year - if I didn't say that, then my goals, which were not as lofty or as many as yours, had an accomplishment rate of 15% (10% being the amount given to a successful year here on The Prairies) and I'm not ready to accept that.

Your post is inspirational, though - knowing that a writer can go back to works she had thought long gone and shelve projects for future use without feeling guilty for doing so. And the fact that you finished, edited, submitted Burning Love which now has a release date of Jan. 20th (two more days) all within a year. That gives hope to us struggling to find that first publishing credit.

Good luck with your goals - and with Flawless, which I know is going to be fantastic. I'll just stick in my goal for the month - I will have Jane and Ryan's story (first draft) finished by Jan. 31st. Yikes, said it out loud.

Jana Richards said...

Hey Janet,
Thanks for the ego boost! But seriously, I fell short on some goals in 2009. I'm going to push myself in 2010 but I'll try not to beat myself up if I don't succeed in everything. I'm kind of hard on myself that way.

Fall is always a very busy time for me at work so I'm trying to come up with ideas that will allow me to still get some writing done, no matter what is going on in the rest of my life. I'm going to explore that in upcoming blogs.

Now that you've stated out loud what your goal is, you can't back down sister! I'm looking forward to reading Jane and Ryan's story in the near future.

Back to BIAW. Talk to you soon!


Karyn Good said...

You're a harsh marker, Jana! Don't forget you also learned about blog tours and spent time organizing promotion for Burning Love. You spent time creating one-sheets and other things for the writing conference you attended. Probably the Fall saw more of the business side of writing. Plus belonging to two writing groups and making friends at Wild Rose Press!

I like your goals and how you laid them out. SMART, indeed. I'll definitely have to set better goals. One goal I have made is to watch one hour of television a night and no reruns. Sports events and movies are exceptions. I was wasting too much time in front of the TV. I've picked my favorites and I make use of the PVR thingy. My writing goal is to finish this revision of my wip by January 31.

Good luck with BIAW!

Jana Richards said...

You're too kind Karen! I was busy this fall getting ready for the conference and trying to promote "Burning Love" (available from The Wild Rose Press on Tuesday!) But then I read about fellow writers who accomplish so much more and I think what slacker I am. One of my fellow authors at TWRP had 9 releases in 2009! That's amazing!

I know, I know. I shouldn't compare myself to other writers. But I am inspired by their productivity!

I continue to be distracted by TV. It's a huge time waster for me too. One thing I've been trying to do is to say if I want to watch TV I have to do something else as well, like check through email, work on a blog post, research or maybe just wash the dishes. That way I don't feel like I'm completely wasting my time. I like the committment to not watch reruns. I watch reruns of my favorite shows all the time. There's no reason for it really.

Back to Flawless now. BTW thanks for the name suggestion. I love it!


connie said...

Jana- I can't believe how much you get done with a job and family to hand!
And look what all you have published recently. No dismal thoughts or self-criticism allowed.
I didn't set goals last year. But this year, I am going to write/think/research every evening from after supper until the National and I am damn well going to do it!! (maybe I'll move supper hour to 9 p.m.)
I left off keeping up with the housework in, I don't know -- '66?'67? I have a lot of guilt and a messy house but public health hasn't called even once.
I want to get at least half way though the ring thing, look at my medieval again and find some contests to enter. Anyone with suggestions on contest, please let me know.
I have a book called Easy Computing for Seniors Hayley, Hazel and Janet, and I am going to read it - maybe take a course if I can find one.
Oh yes, and write shorter comments

Jana Richards said...

Too funny Connie! My house often looks like I gave up housework in '66 or '67. I love my husband dearly but he's no help at all when it comes to housework. His favorite saying is "Get the girls to do it." Well, one of the girls now lives in Toronto and the other one, the student nurse, is so busy with classes, homework, work and on-site training that she's rarely home let alone has any free time!

So that leaves me. Wish I could be like you, Connie and just ignore a messy house, but unfortunately it really bothers me, sometimes to the point where I HAVE TO DO SOMETHING OR GO CRAZY! My fondest desire is to write a best seller so I can afford to hire someone to clean my house!

And I like long comments. Nothing wrong with them!


Helena said...

I think you've already been given quite a few lashes with the wet noodle from the others, so I won't belabour the point too much. However, I can't resist adding that you are one of the writers I most admire for your organising ability and productiveness!

You also set such a good example on how to develop goals, which is the most important part of this post for me. I do set goals every year, but I realise now that I must be much more specific -- I think I should be beyond the stage of just saying "Write more, send out more, etc. etc."

Grading your results is somewhat dangerous, I think. Surely a lot of what you accomplished carries greater weight than you have given yourself credit for. I'd be tempted to give a lot of weight to PUBLICATION! Another thing to keep in mind is the ebb and flow of the different parts of the year. Life happens! Perhaps you should build in a recognition that your productive spells have to be scheduled for the (known) times of year with the least conflict with other stuff, and just recognise that's the way it has to be. You may end up with less stress, and can stop beating yourself up over it. Spend time during those periods doing other writerly things like reading extra novels, books on writing, or memoirs by authors you admire. And you have to give yourself some R & R (and that other R -- Reward), so TV is okay. Keep in mind you are studyihg plot and character development, not to mention action, conflict, etc. in those shows you love to watch.

Look at me -- advising YOU!

I had goals for last year, but like you pointed out, have to find them before I can reveal or rate them. I do know that I didn't meet many of them, but did a lot of other stuff instead (like to think that some of it counted for something).

My immediate goal is to re-examine and revise my goals for this year and to do it by the end of January, so that I can set out some SMART goals a la my friend Jana. Then, I will feel more comfortable telling you all about them.

Thanks for your inspiration today!

Jana Richards said...

Hi Helena,
I had to laugh when you said you admired my organizational ability. I don't feel very organized. I go through spurts of organization, and then things get messed up again!

I like your idea of working around my busy time at work and just recognizing that that's the way things are right now. There's nothing much I can do about the amount of work. I can maybe do some writing in the evening but I've never been very good at it. Probably the smartest thing I can do is concentrate my productivity on the first half of the year, as you advise.

I'm also not very good at giving myself credit, which all of you have pointed out! I am happy with the things I have accomplished. I just want more!

Goals are valuable things to work on. They help you focus and to decide what's really important to you. Good luck with formulating your own goals.