Monday, April 12, 2010

Checking in on my 2010 Goals

I’m interrupting my previously promised post on Problem Endings and How to Fix Them for a discussion on goals. I’m dealing with a time sensitive matter that I need help with ASAP. Please read on for more information.

It’s hard to believe, but more than a quarter of 2010 has already passed. I recently read a post at Honorary Chick Autumn Jordon’s blog about how she was doing so far on her 2010 goals and I was inspired to do the same. Usually I set goals at the beginning of the year, stick them in a drawer, and forget about them until the next year rolls around. But this year one of my goals is to be more productive and to actually finish things I’ve already started. With that in mind I pulled out my list of writing goals for 2010 to see how I’m doing.

My first goal was to work on edits for “Welcome to Paradise by April 30. Okay, I’m already in trouble here. I took a week off in January, fully intending to work on this project. But then a shiny new project wormed its way into my head and took over my life for about three months. I finished “Flawless”, a novella length romantic suspense set in World War Two, by the end of March and it is currently with editors at The Wild Rose Press. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Writing “Flawless” is a good thing, but it means I didn’t finish my work on “Welcome to Paradise”. I had received good feedback on this manuscript when I sat down for a blue pencil session with Susan Wiggs last fall at the Surrey International Writers Conference. She even gave me the name of an agent at her agent’s firm who she thought might be interested. Must. Finish. This. Story. And. Submit. Somewhere. Besides, I’ve been working on this manuscript for ages and I’d really like to move on.

Writing goal #2: Finish first draft of “Twice in a Lifetime” by June 30, 2010. After that, polish this manuscript and send for critiquing by December 31, 2010. Because of the backup in writing goal #1, this one will likely get pushed back as well. The reason I gave so much time to polish up this story once a first draft was written was because the second half of the year at my day job is very busy and I tend not to get a lot of writing done. I thought I was being realistic by trying to get must of my work done in the first half of the year. Now I’m worried I may not even get to this story. And again, I received good feedback at SIWC last October in my agent session with Donald Maass. He invited me to query him with the first 50 pages when it was completely done and as shiny clean as I could make it, even if it took two years. Good thing he’s not in a big hurry for this story.

Writing goal #3: Rework “There Goes the Groom” by July 31, 2010. Do a first draft of “Always a Bridesmaid” by December 31, 2010. Okay, did I say I was being realistic about my goals? Perhaps not. These two stories have been swimming around in my head for a few years. I’ve envisioned them, along with my published novel “Her Best Man”, as my “Left at the altar” series. The stories all begin with someone being left at the altar. I love the idea, but unfortunately “There Goes the Groom”, the second story in this series, isn’t cooperating at all. But I’m determined to make them work. The question is when?

And now I’m facing a dilemma. I am taking a few days off to write. My publisher, The Wild Rose Press, has recently put out a call for submissions in its “Last Rose of Summer” line. The premise is a 25th year Class Reunion (Class of ’85) to be held in the upstate New York town of Summerville. Stories are to be between 7,500 and 40,000 words. I’ve got an idea that I think (hope) will work. My question is, should I pursue this new venture or stick to my game plan and finish at least one of my other projects? I’m so confused!

I’d appreciate any and all advice. How are you doing on your goals for 2010? Do shiny new projects tend to distract you from polishing and editing?


Nayuleska said...

I would suggest perhaps focusing on your current goals, rather than add more to your plate.

2010 goals...can't think that I actually set any, but at the moment I'm working on revising a wip so hopefully I can begin the query process this year. So far, its looking positive.

Helena said...

Thanks for the poke, Jana. I mean that both sincerely and sarcastically!

First the sincere part -- I really need to be reminded of my goals from time to time, and you are also the one who prompted me to be more specific in my goal-setting. So your example is good, very good, for me. I like the idea of periodic review of goals.

But then, on the sarcastic side of the equation -- yeah, sure. How come I didn't notice that a quarter of the year has whizzed by? You must have been influenced at some point in your life by the business or investment world which lives (or dies) by its quarterly reports. Aside from the time factor, I go off the rails very easily, thinking it would be great to pursue such and such a project even tho it was not on my radar when I set goals at the beginning of the year. So much for planning ...

However, I see that you have allowed your creative impulses to take you off the track, and the results have been promising. So now I don't feel so bad about putting something on the back burner in order to follow up on a different idea.

If I have any advice (for both of us), it would be to treat goals a little like a budget. Let's face it. At best, it's only a guide for action, but should be flexible enough to be amended from time to time. You know the rent has to be paid no matter what (edits from the publisher are like that), but isn't there some room for impulse spending for that great bargain (or super new idea for a story). It will require some change in priorities, belt-tightening maybe, in order to accommodate the new expenditure (challenge), but will surely be worth it in the end.

[By the way, Jana may not be available to respond to your comments today due to an illness in her family. So I will try to keep the dialogue going. Let's accumulate a whole raft of suggestions for her to review when she gets back, so that she doesn't feel that her goals have gone completely sideways after what she will surely feel is yet another setback to her plans. All the best, Jana!]

Helena said...

You take a very commonsense approach to goals, Nayuleska. Certainly it makes sense not to try to pile too much on an already overloaded plate.

At the same time, you are flexible enough not to set yourself too many rigid deadlines. That might allow for trying to find some time outside of your revision project to start something new.

I'm sure Jana would relate from her experience as a published author that without some specific goals it becomes too easy to keep putting things off. (Or maybe that's just procrastinating Helena talking!) I do hope you will get to the query stage this year. And thanks for getting the comments rolling today.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Wow, Jana! You do have a lot going on.

I don't think I'm one to give advice because I've been working on my own wip for over 2 yrs now.

During that time, I've created many new stories as sequels to this one and plot lines for others, but I just write then down and file them away.

My 2010 goal is to submit Emma's Outlaw and have a good portion of the sequel written by the time I leave for RWA in Nashville. And the SRW's spring retreat will help with that, too.

A quarter of the year has passed already? Oh my!


Nayuleska said...

My comment probably stems from the fact I've recently had to drop a few things because I was doing to much.

Learning to be flexible is something I'm working on. It can be fun!

Maybe...thinking about what the opportunity could offer might be something to consider. If it's an area that might help your current work, maybe go for it?

Even for other people making decisions (giving suggestions) is hard!

Helena said...

I feel the same way, Anita. Jana must know what works for her, because she has so much to show for it. She has a lot going on, but they say a busy person is the one likely to get the most done. And I agree that time flies (isn't the rest of that saying -- when you're having fun?)

I say, don't stop filing away the ideas for the sequels and the new stories. That way when your current wip starts moving along the publication route, you won't miss a beat when moving on to the next new wip.

And there's no denying you have given yourself some meaty goals, too. You are another writer I try to emulate!

Helena said...

Couldn't agree with you more, Nayuleska. All your points are valid in my mind.

I am constantly trying to prune down my non-writing commitments. It's hard to say no.

An open mind to new opportunities and ideas is essential. And you're right about the cross-pollenation that can happen. I sometimes get working on the same ideas but in different genres. They sometimes feed each other.

Finally, I agree wholeheartedly that is very hard to give advice. Every person's situation is unique, but telling about what works for you can be helpful to us all. More of that fertilization going on. Hope you don't mind the gardening metaphors. Spring fever, you know!

Nayuleska said...

*reaches for the tissues* ^o^

virtual gardening is the best because I dont react to the pollen!

Cutting back in some areas has lead to an overall increase in production. It can be trial and error finding the ultimate combination. None of us can use exactly the same combo because we arent clones. There are lots of things that make us well as the big one which unites us in one way or another - books!!!!

Karyn Good said...

Goals? What goals? Did I have goals? I think I did! I'm pretty sure I'm behind, whatever they were.

Good luck with whatever direction you decide to take, Jana. If I were to vote I'd vote for finishing one of your scheduled projects. They're such great story ideas!

PS: Thinking of you!

Jana Richards said...

Hi all,
What's that saying? "Man makes plans and God laughs." I'm feeling a little like that because sometimes, despite all your planning and goal setting, life happens and throws everything out the window.

My mom's been sick so whatever time I had planned for writing has gone by the wayside as I drive the 600 km between her home and mine. She will require lots of care from now on so we're looking into finding her new living arrangements. I'm not sure how all this is going to affect my writing goals for this year. I haven't entirely ruled out starting a new project, but finishing my previously started stories has become much more urgent for me.

Thanks for hosting today Helena. Wonderful job as always.


Silver James said...

I'm still on track. Sorta. Kinda. Maybe. LOL!

The major rewrite of SEASON OF THE WITCH is done, though it still needs LOTS of polishing before I pitch it at OKRWA's mini-conference in June and Nationals in July. And by LOTS, I mean at least two more chapters added, but this is new stuff and easier. I hope!

FAERIE FIRE was edited, revised, proofed, and has a release date of September 17, 2010. I need to get back on FAERIE FOOL, which I hope to have done before FIRE comes out.

And like you, Jana, I was intrigued by the LROS call for stories. I have two working at the moment. I'm planning "shorts"--10K-15K words. I have about 5500 on the first and 400 on the second. These are fun, sweet stories, and Iffy wouldn't let me think about those two chapters for SOTW unless I wrote them first.

I just hope I can multitask! I have found, though, that Iffy is usually write (and right!). If she pulls me off a project for something "Ooh-Shiny!", it's because the old project needs to percolate some more before it's ready. Good luck and keep us posted!

connie said...

Hi Jana,

Sorry to hear about your mother. She is lucky to have you to love and care for her, knowing you.

If you need to howl, talk or otherwise lessen the stress, my number is 306-764-8720

My advice would be to list all the projects and then work on the one that you really want to do most.

BE GOOD to yourself! Everything that is meant to get done will and everything stressful will work out eventually. Write what pleases you most until you are through this patch.

Goals can be a help or a hinderance. I need them too but they give me a major guilt trip when I get far behind. Hence, I don't have any specific ones this year. Besides, the only goals I have had time for this past 25 years are ones the kids and grandkidlets score on the ice!

"The best laid plans of mice and men aft gang agly". I know for CERTAIN, Bobbie Burns was right on with that line!

Take care of yourself,

Janet said...

Jana - thinking about you and your mom. And thanks for taking the time to pop in - you must be up to your neck in stuff right now. BTW - Helena, you're doing a great job pinch hitting :)

I'm late because the post scared me away this morning. I saw the work 'goals' and ran for the hills rather than sit down and look at my goals for the year. Yep - not really accomplishing a lot. Perhaps it's time to sit down and discover why the goals are being ignored (or just run for the hills again).

I say go with your gut on the project you want to do, Jana. I know your writing took an amazing leap after your last project for Wild Rose - so I see that deviation as a huge plus in your overall writing goals. But, no matter what you pick, you can always change course if it's not working out well. Nothing's set in stone.

Helena said...

So glad you could pop in this afternoon, Jana. Just didn't feel the same without you.

Obviously, when life throws you a curve, you have to deal with the personal priorities, but once you get the new arrangements made and you are back in the saddle so to speak, I think you will be very glad that you mapped out such a detailed writing strategy for the year. The timelines will be a bit jiggered (wow, my dad used to use that word, just popped into my head, totally surprised me, now this is reading like my first drafts do) -- anyway, your goals will give you a ready-made map. Just don't fret the adjustments needed. I know you were already fretting about being behind before the events of last week, but I am so excited that you finished your WWII story. There are times when you have to go with your gut.

More power to you!

Helena said...

Hey, Karyn -- good luck with the goals. I know how you feel. I haven't progressed very far past something that soumds like, My Number One goal this year is to WRITE.

Don't worry, even if it's one large goal, it'll jump out and bite you and you'll recognize it. I know you've been pretty focussed lately. Nothing to say it can't be that one all-consuming wip you've been slaving over.

Helena said...

Silver, thank you for pulling out the example of the call for submissions that both you and Jana are considering. Couldn't have known about that specifically when setting goals in January, but these "opportunities" keep knocking, and you have to pick and choose.

Thanks for stopping by today. Glad to see you can slip back into the harness so adeptly after your weekend in the clouds. Or your day in the sun ... pick your own metaphor. Congratulations!!

Helena said...

Great advice, connie. Between Robbie Burns wisdom and God's laughter, we should be able to get through anything.

Kids and grandkids have a fair influence on my goals, too. I try to work around what is already known about the year ahead, but there's always something unexpected around the next corner.

Helena said...

Thanks for coming down from the hills, Janet. I must admit that I had a moment like that, too. But then I thought that Jana must have somehow known that I really needed a pep talk about now. And since I had promised to be here in her stead, I had no choice!

You know, of course, that your wise comments would be missed if you didn't comment. Anyway, we all know that you have multi things on your plate or stuff that you're juggling right now. That's what makes our individual plans different. We all have to play to own unique situations.

I'm off to a reading at the library shortly, so will check back later for any latecomers. Donald Ward was the winner of the CBC Literary Award for Short Fiction this year, so I can't miss hearing him read. His short story collection was a Saskatchewan Book Award winner a few years ago.