Sunday, December 31, 2006

Goals for 2007

I usually do one-word goals or themes for the upcoming year, in addition to more detailed plans. For 2004, the theme was balance. For 2005, it was improvement. I'm not sure if I verbalized my one-word goal anywhere for 2006, but I think it was patience. For 2007, it is focus.

As I've been reviewing my 2006 accomplishments against my hopes for the year, I've noticed a pattern of distraction that has greatly diminished my writing output. I know I can write at least 750 words every time I have at least an hour to sit down and write. And I can expect to get at least three hours of writing every week. So I should've been able to write around 120,000 words this year at a minimum. I wrote about 50,000 for SoZ, 15,000 for Carson's Learning, and another 15,000 for my three other pieces of short fiction. That's a total of 80,000 words. I can do better, I need to do better if I want to have any hope of making this my career.

Granted, I had some good excuses this year. But I'll always have good excuses. That's life. It's going to be at least five years before I can reliably and consistently have long chunks of uninterrupted writing time again. And I have to stop using the writing mindset that lets me gradually get into the swing of things. That worked before Drew was born. That worked even while we were in Colorado after Drew was born because Mark didn't have to tack on two to three hours to his work day for commuting, thus giving us time to be awake in each other's presence in the morning and unwind at the end of the day and stay up a bit later. But the same writing mindset doesn't work anymore, and I have to stop holding myself to a writing style that is only going to frustrate me.

I have to start improving my ability to focus, to get right to the heart of what I want to do with the hour I've got each evening. I've also got to start focusing on other areas of my life. I don't have the time to set a goal and trust that I'll eventually find my way toward it.

Writing: I have to set aside five minutes of pre-writing before my writing time, and even before my blogging time. In those five minutes, which I'm going to have to time, I need to clearly sketch what it is I want to say. For my novels and stories, this involves stating the purpose of the chapter or scene I'm going to work on, what I roughly think will happen, what the POV character's motivation in the scene is in relation to their arc for the novel, and maybe some problem areas and/or spots that need further worldbuilding/research that might crop up. Even for all of my organicness, this is not a problem. I know a lot about what's going on and why, I just don't know enough to detail out the method for getting from Point a to Point B, even in chapter. I need to let the information I do know about my books stay with me and guide me better.

I might even incorporate those five minutes into my schedule at the very beginning of the day and keep a notebook out as I do the DDJ thing so I can keep adding to my thoughts as I go through the day so I've spent the entire day "getting into the groove" for the writing time I have that night. And for the days that I need to work on research or world-building, taking those five minutes at the beginning of the day will be absolutely required. Part of the problem of getting back into forward momentum with SoZ is that I'm taking too much time on the worldbuilding because I'm so scatter-brained when I sit down to work on it and by the time I'm focused, it's time for bed.

For the blogging, I have to start getting to the point faster. I have to stop spending an hour or longer on a post. If this means outlining a la the five paragraph essay I was taught in high school, then so be it. And I'm not going to allow myself longer than 30 minutes to write a post. If I don't finish the post in that time, then I won't be posting it until the next week when I'll give myself another 30 minutes on that same post. As much as I'd like to keep up the "pro" blogging effort, it's rather silly to take away much-needed time and energy from my novels and short fiction to write blog posts. So I'm giving myself permission not to post daily as I train myself to be able to write a post in 30 minutes.

As for the concrete output for the year: I really, really, really want to finish the SoZ draft. I think it's plausible with proper focus. I also want to revise The Understudy and Ghost Story and submit them to at least four markets each. Timing has already been sent to two markets, so I'll send it out to two more. The goal for those submissions (other than the obvious one of publication) is to try to net some personalized rejection letters. Also, I want to finish four new short fiction pieces. I'm already a few pages into one. If all goes well with SoZ and the short fiction, I want to be putting together my thoughts for the next novel or two on my plate (logic says I should go right on to the next Velorin book, but there's a follow-up novel to Carson's Learning that I'd like to get a draft of soon). Speaking of, I really need to figure out what I'm going to do with Carson's Learning.

Health: Gotta get back into shape. Toning the tummy will help with some of the problems my body is giving me and it'll make me feel a lot better to get rid of the flab that's dripping over my c-section scar. The goal is to lose 10 lbs this year, even if I am only able to fit in thirty minutes of walking every day. Our house is in a very beautifully landscaped area, away from heavily trafficked roads. I shouldn't have a problem taking the Drew Monster for a walk every day, making it a family thing on the weekends. There's also quite a few play areas already up in the new development. Of course, that's not going to get rid of the tummy flab. Unfortunately, the only time I know for certain won't get interrupted by the Drew Monster is the evening. Which is when I write. I think I might start doing some tummy crunches just before bed. We'll see how that goes.

Mental Health: Man, did I wander away from this in 2006. Journalling stopped in August. "Me" time stopped as soon as we moved. I keep running into the same problem with journalling: no fifteen or thirty minute chunk of time that I can count on that isn't already pegged for something more important like the DDJ or writing or personal hygiene. Once we're set up in the new house, I might find something shakes free. I'll be on the lookout for it. As for "me" time, I've got a different built-in chunk of it: my monthly treks back to CO. Unfortunately, this isn't a whole lot of "me" time, and there are times that I'll have to bring Drew with me because it's cheaper for day care that way (sounds insane, I know). But that's not going to keep me insane. I have to start setting aside at least a half hour every weekend to be by myself. I need to think more on where and how I'm going to fit this in. Again, it might be something that will make more sense once we're in the new place.

So them be the goals. Focus is the theme, and I can already tell that I don't know enought yet for the proper focus in the mental and physical health areas. I'll re-address them at the beginning of February. And we'll see what I think of all this in a year's time.

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