Goals.

I’m going to write another post about where I am, what’s been happening lately, and where I’m going with my non-writing life pretty soon, probably in the next week. I’ll give you a teaser for it here: I move out of home in 6 days to go to school.

This post, however, is going to talk about where I’ve been, where I am, and where I want to go in my writing life. I’ve decided it’s time to assess where I am, see if I like it or not, and see where I want to be a month, a year, a decade from now.

I’m working on a new project. A friend and I are working on an online game. He’s doing most of the coding, though I’m helping with that where I can. One of my majors is computer science, and trying to struggle through the code is good practice for me. But my major role in the project is the story. Many small games just have basic stories, or even no story at all, and they’re there only for the game. I understand these games; I play a few of them. I want our game to be different. Some of the large games–RuneScape, World of Warcraft–have novels that go with them. I don’t know if I’ll get that far, but I am writing background, flavor text, and some short stories to go along with the game, so that your progression actually makes sense, and so that there’s another level for the players to enjoy, if they choose to do so, and that they can ignore if they want to. I wrote my first short story for this two days ago, and I really enjoyed it, clocking in about 3,000 words in a single day, pretty much non-stop. I ran a quick grammar revision over it, and let a few gaming friends read it. So far reception has been pretty positive. My goals here are to get the game launched in a reasonable time-frame, and to continue writing short stories and back-ground text. I would like to have several ready to go when the game launches, and a new one every month or so as the game progresses, maybe less often. I’m not sure yet.

I’m close to finishing my NaNoWriMo novel. I’m 60,000 words in, and in the middle of what I think is the ending. My immediate goal is to make it through the novel, and set it aside/send it off to a few friends for comments. I hope to do this before classes start, and it’s what I’ll be spending all of my writing time doing for the next few days.

What will I work on after that?

What are my long-term, 10-year+ goals? I want to be a published author, with books in the bookstores. (Yes, I’m optimistic that bookstores will still exist in 10 years.) That is the ultimate goal, I guess, and I want to take steps toward that goal, not away from it.

Let me take a minute and explain that goal. My true goal is to be a writer. I’ve done that already, I’ve written a novel, several short stories, and I’m almost finished with a second novel. But my drive to be a writer consists of two parts. First and foremost, I want to tell stories. I have more ideas than I have time to write, and I want to write these ideas down, get them out of my head–though this mostly seems to just make room for new ones. But I also want my stories to be read. That’s the purpose of a story, to entertain others. I read books to be entertained, and I would love for my books to be able to do the same thing. That is why I want to be published. (I’m not under any delusions that I’ll get rich from it. Not in the slightest.)

So what am I going to do? I could just keep writing novels until I feel they’re good enough (My second one is much better than my first, IMHO, and I hope this trend will continue.), and hope to get in that way. It’s one of the traditional ways, and lots of people have done it. I have considered it, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.

But I also enjoy writing short stories, and reading some of them as well, at least of types that fit my tastes. I don’t want to write only novels. Some parts of writing, some aspects of the craft, can be practiced in short stories, and I intend to keep writing these when I feel like it. In addition, some ideas are better suited to short stories, and wouldn’t work as complete novels, and sometimes, it’s refreshing to start and finish something in a day or a week, instead of it being a months-long process.

So on my path to submitting novels and writing more of them (I’m not going to stop doing that. Period.), I’m aiming to submit and have published some short stories. I don’t have any right now that I feel are ready to submit (I really like the one I wrote for the game, but it’s for the game, not submission. There’s too much back-story and interconnectedness for that to work, even if I wanted to.). Thus, my immediate goal is to write some more short stories. Today is August 17. My goal is to have 1 done by the end of this month and being read by some writer friends for feedback. I want to have that one revised and sent off somewhere to be rejected by the end of September, and I want to have another one written by then. I want to do at least one new one per month until the end of this year (I might take November off if I decide to do NaNoWriMo), and have at least one rejection letter that I can print out and hang on my wall before the end of the year.

By the end of next year, I hope to have several short stories to shop around, and be able to collect a nice stack of rejections. My goal, my big goal for next year, is to get one acceptance, though that will probably be a low-paying, easy market. I’ll take what I can get, though I’ll always strive for the best.

I also want to write at least one more novel this year. I have three months, and I’m going strong with 1000 words per day. I can do another 50-60k on a single project, though I’ll be happy as well being 60k into a novel and it not being done, due to the fact that it ends up being longer. This is some-what vague right now, as I don’t know what I want to write next–I’m going to do brainstorming soon.

Next year, I hope to be able to revise the novel I’m working on now, once I have some distance from it, and write at least two more rough drafts, as well as several more short stories.

From there, it gets vague. Keep writing, keep submitting short stories. Hopefully in a few years, I’ll feel confident enough to start shopping a novel around, with the eventual goal of selling one. But that’s all vague.

For the rest of this year, here’s my checklist. I’ll keep you updated as I go through and hopefully hit these markers.

Finish the July novel by Wednesday, August 28, 2013.

Brainstorm and write a short story, rough draft, by September 1, 2013.

Brainstorm and write a short story, rough draft, by October 1, 2013.

Revise and etc. the short story from August by October 1, 2013.

Submit the August story to a market by October 2, 2013.

Get a rejection letter by the end of the year.

Brainstorm and write a short story, rough draft, by November 1, 2013.

Revise the September story by November 1, 2013.

Submit the September story by November 2, 2013.

Maybe brainstorm and write a short story, rough draft, by December 1, 2013.

Revise the October and November stories by the end of the year.

Write at least one more short story for the game project, and whatever else needs to be done.

Write at least 60k words on another novel by the end of the year.

All in all, this would leave me with 4 revised short stories, 1 unrevised, and hopefully at least one rejection letter under my belt, as well as 2 completed novel rough drafts and a good chunk of a third. I think that’s a pretty good goal-set for my first year as a serious writer, while going full time to college. Don’t you? Looking at it all, I’m kind of scared. But if I can get all that done, I’ll be very proud of myself, and well on my way to becoming a published author. I’ll also have established that I can set goals that will stretch me, and I can make myself meet them. I want to continue being able to stretch myself and to grow.

Camp NaNoWriMo Is Over!

Yep. July has come and gone. It’s now August.

I won Camp NaNoWriMo, meaning that I made it to over 50,000 words on a new novel project in the month of July alone. I wrote 50,918, actually. The story is not done, and I’m going to continue to write on the same novel until it is, but I finished the month victorious.

It’s an amazing feeling, and I am so glad that I did it. It has been quite an experience. I might even do it again, some day, though I don’t know when. November won’t be a good time for me, because I will have classes. Maybe next summer, depending on my class schedule.

Here’s a few more things to note, things that I think everyone who wants to try to do a NaNoWriMo should know.

First: Set a realistic goal. I set mine at the standard 50,000. One of my cabin-mates set his at 70,000. We both reached our goals. If I had tried to reach his goal, I would have fallen behind early in the month and never caught up. I would not have even made 50,000, I don’t think. If you don’t think you can make 50,000, you can, at least during the camp months (I don’t know if you can in November or not.), set your own goal lower than that. Set it where you think you can reach it, but still high enough to make you stretch and reach. 50,000 is more than I’ve ever done in a single month before, but now I know that I can do it, and that’s an amazing feeling. There’s no shame in making 30,000 or less, though, if that’s all your schedule allows, and it’s a stretch for you.

Second: Tell people that you’re doing it. This does two things. First, it gives you supporters, those who will cheer you on all month long. If they’re other writers, that can be even better, as they understand what you’re going through, and you can watch them along the way as well. Writing is a solitary pursuit, but trust me, being able to talk about it helps. A lot. It also gives you accountability. These same people who are encouraging you will ask you if you have met your word-count, and you will want to be able to say yes. Knowing that someone will be doing this is a great way to motivate yourself. I’ve gotten half my words done for tonight. Can I go to bed yet? Oh, my co-worker Fred will ask me in the morning how my writing is going, and I want to tell him I’m on track… I’ll keep writing.

Third: Write before the Camp. This breaks down into two types of writing. The first is designing the novel. Yes, you are not supposed to start actually writing it before the month starts. I’m talking about outlining and sketching. Have a general idea of where your novel is going, and who your characters are before you start, at least. If you’re a heavier outliner than that in general, outline more heavily. But I found that because I had an ending to work towards, and I knew who my characters were, I could put them in a scene and know what needed to happen to move towards the ending in that scene, and see what happened with them. For the most part, I liked the result. Also, you should have a writing habit before the month starts. If you don’t write at all, it’s going to be quite a shock when you jump in and have to start writing large numbers of words every day. I’ve been on the Magic Spreadsheet since January, and I’ve only missed a single day. I don’t think that I could have made it through the month if I had not already been in the habit of writing every day–I just had to increase my word-count for the days this month.

Fourth: Have a tool that allows you to focus on the writing. This month, I downloaded the trial version of Scrivener. And I love it. It’s not the only program, or maybe even the best one out there, but it allowed me to do everything I wanted, which mainly meant keeping track of the world-building and character notes that I came up with as I went along, and having my various stages of outlining visible along the side as I wrote, and it also kept my word-count goals right alongside where I was writing, which was motivational. Have your program for writing, and love it. If you don’t love it, find one that you do love. It keeps the distractions to a minimum when you don’t have to argue with your program, and leaves you more time and energy for what’s important: the writing.

The advice above is in addition to all of the regular advice, the main piece of which is that you should not edit as you go. This will kill your momentum and your confidence. Just keep  writing.

My cabin-mate and friend, the amazing Ellie, wrote a post half-way through the month called “5 Things not to do During NaNoWriMo“. It’s got some really good advice, and you should check it out. Another one of my cabin-mates and friends, Derek, also wrote a post, “Camp NaNoWriMo“, which has his story. If he can make it through the month with all that he’s been doing, so can you. He also have some advice on how to make it through the month, which is worth reading.

I had fun this month, and I know I’m not the only one. I might not be doing this again in November, but I will be at some point in the future. If you’ve never done it before, I strongly encourage you to join in. It’s an amazing experience, and I’ve learned so much.