Victory Spurs Us On

The Year is dead. Long live the Year!

Every year I set myself one or more new writing goals to see whether they add or subtract from my writing overall. But before revealing the new madness, it is time to consider the old.

Primary Goal: To start the year with only two active projects and not start a new project until I had finished an old one
I defined project as a significant stage in a prose work (so, editing a first draft into a second draft rather than everything from outlining to final polishing). I did not deviate from this once, so a clear success.

Having a second project to work on if I really felt blocked on my current project allowed me to put something aside for a short while to let my unconscious work on issues without feeling as if I had stopped writing. Only having two projects prevented me from succumbing to shiny new ideas or leaving anything for too long.

Secondary Goal: Finish two incomplete projects from previous years
As a stretch goal I wanted to not only end the year without more unfinished projects but actually end with less. I finished the first draft of Midnight Shakes the Memory, my vampire novel, but I did not find time to pick up Melchior’s Marvellous Mechanical Man, a novella I outlined and wrote a chapter of for the Black Library open submissions window 2012. So a partial success.

Finishing the first draft of a novel feels significant both in terms of not having it hanging over me any more and in terms of practising my-own writing voice, so I think this goal was useful under the circumstances. While it would be good to not have unfinished work, I feel mining Mechanical Man for ideas might be more productive than continuing with a piece that only has single market with no interest in it.

Added Goal: Publish Fauxpocalypse before Christmas
Having two stories accepted for publication in a proper compilation was already a good year. So not only taking on the publication of that collection in November, but also aiming to get the ebook editions published by the end of the year felt ambitious. So achieving it feels good.

I am slightly ambivalent about this being a useful goal: between finishing the first draft of my novel at the end of November and going away for Christmas, I spent most of the time I would otherwise have spent working on other projects getting Fauxpocalypse compiled, typeset, and uploaded, so I have not appreciably progressed my ongoing writing projects at all; but I do have all the initial set-up for author-publishing via Amazon and Smashwords complete, and solid experience of publishing, both of which will be useful in future years. Overall, I think focusing on this has brought more benefit than part-of-a-month more on outlining or drafting a new story.

2013 Conclusions
While 2013 was not more productive in terms of number of finished stories, it was more productive in terms of both volume of work and overall progress; and – if I had not focused more on Fauxpocalypse – might have produced more finished work too. So – were it not for a potential conflict with a goal for 2014 – I would definitely make limiting myself to two projects part of my standard writing process.

2014 Primary Goal: Million Word Challenge
At the end of last year Simon Cantan invited me to join The Last Author Standing community oh Google+: a community dedicated to various friendly competitions to boost the members productivity. In 2014 we are attempting the Million Word Challenge: to write one-million words during 2014. While this initially seems a huge goal it does include blog posts, unpublished notes and deleted scenes, and sundry other things that do not fall within my current usage of project.

So, in an attempt to not have too varied a range of output, instead of moving on only when a project reaches a significant stage I intend to sometimes work on less word-intensive stages (such as research and outlining) in parallel with writing other work. Hopefully this smoother progress graph will give me both a better idea of whether I am on target and prevent me from skimping on research and outlining to push my word-count up.

If working on multiple projects starts to involve too great a degree of task switching, I am leaving the option open to go back to finishing projects before moving on.

2014 Secondary Goal: Publish a collection of previously published work
I have several stories that have been first published, usually on a small site on the internet, so will not be of interest to most markets. I feel they do not make up quite a long enough manuscript to republish. However, a combination of reviewing work submitted to flash fiction contests to see if it works as a longer story, achieving further first-publications, and adding new work could make it into a worthwhile book. So I will try to

Obstacles
The main issue going into 2014 is the same as that experienced for most of 2013: my love of my wife and cats. That this post is going up early evening rather than, as intended, mid-morning is because Una sat on my lap from breakfast to lunch. And – despite not being near my daily average for one-million words – I am unlikely to write much else today, so I can spend the evening with my wife. Of course, today is a holiday with terrible weather; on a normal day I will be in more of a work mindset and the cats will be less demanding of constant attention, so I should not need much of the evenings to stay on top of my targets.

Do you have any goals for 2014? Do you think one-million words is an insane target?

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2 thoughts on “Victory Spurs Us On

    1. NaNo is a smaller target; however, it is also focused on only one thing. I blogged several times a week in addition to NaNoWriting in 2012, so probably did write more than 50k overall.

      I have two hypotheses about NaNo that Million Words will test: (1) I suffered reduced motivation to write from late November into December because I had only been focussed on one thing; if I work on things in parallel I will see “writing” as a whole as less of a chore; (2) NaNo is too short to create a consistent high rate of writing; because the final deadline is always less than a month away it is unconsciously a sprint, rather than an incentive to write more every day.

      One Million Words is too large a target to have on its own (especially at the start), so my first motivational step is to break it into month goals, and have each month as hit target and then don’t stop.

      While it would be great to get ahead at the start, planning to hit considerably more than my current average every day from Day One would just risk me failing repeatedly; so I am intending to take January to try writing just a little more than usual to see what my current position including everything (rather than just “proper” work) is.

      Then I can set the bar for February higher, March higher than February, and so on.

      In parallel with not pushing myself too hard too soon, I am aiming to get as much writing in as I can in the morning, so I can go into the rest of the day already feeling good.

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