I’m a goal-oriented person and every year I set writing goals for myself. Goals are important for me because they give targets to strive toward, and allow me to see progress. Without tangible goals, it’s easy to lose site of the progress I’m making. I think this is especially pronounced in the writing business, where success (i.e., sales) are often few and far between. By setting realistic goals and tracking them through the year, I can appreciate my progress and growth as a writer.
Over the past five weeks, I’ve been busy working on the first draft of my novella, so I haven’t had the chance to reflect back on my 2013 writing goals. I’m in the final stretch of the novella—I put down another thousand words today, bringing the total to 35,000 words—and I thought I would take a break and look back. So here’s how I did on my six writing goals for 2013:
- Write and/or edit at least 700 words per day. I managed to hit this mark, although a lot of my words came through “editing credits” on my novel. Overall, I wrote or edited 290,344 words (~795 words/day), which is down from 2012, and I wrote on 321 of 365 days (88%).
- Finish at least twelve short stories. I was particularly disappointed with my performance on this goal. I completed only six new short stories this year, and I still left about a half-dozen more on the table. Completing stories is the key to success, and I need to focus on this in 2014.
- Make at least 60 story submissions or five sales. I made 62 story submissions this year, but more importantly I made eight sales, including three sales to pro-rate magazines (“The Negotiation” to Daily Science Fiction, “The Schrödinger War” to Lightspeed Magazine, and “Portraits from the Shadow” to InterGalactic Medicine Show). It seemed like this year a lot of my submissions were spending a long time in the slush. This reduced the number of times I could submit a rejected work. While I would have liked to have made more submissions, I am very happy with my accomplishments on this important goal.
- Revise and submit my draft novel. I made some progress on my edits, but I didn’t complete them and I didn’t get the novel submitted anywhere. It turned out to be a larger task than I anticipated, but I think I worked through some of the challenges and will be able to continue to make good progress. I will carry this goal over to 2014 and I think it will get it done.
- Develop a series for self-publication. I intended this to be the novella I’m working on. Obviously I did not complete this goal, but I am nearly finished with the first draft of what I hope will be the beginning of a novella series. I think I’m on firm ground to finish this soon, and I will carry over this goal to 2014.
- Complete NaNoWriMo. In November, I wrote over 50,000 words in a new novel set in the same world as my story “Dreams in Dust,” and I finished it in December. While this wasn’t what I planned to do during NaNoWriMo, I was happy with the result.
Overall, I’m somewhat disappointed with my production in 2013, especially with the lack of finished stories, but there were a few things about which I was happy. Getting eight sales, including three pro-rate sales to Lightspeed Magazine, Daily Science Fiction, and InterGalactic Medicine Show (and two of these made Tangent‘s recommended list!), was particularly gratifying. I also started my novel edits, finished the draft of a second novel and started a series of novellas intended for self-publication. I still need to get better at finishing—much better at finishing, actually—and will make this a focus (again) in the new year.
I think I know where you are coming from with your disappointment in your output, but honestly, you should be really proud of how many submissions you got through – and in particular the success rate you had with so many of them being snapped up. To me that screams that, whilst the volume might not be what you want, the quality is spot on.
Totally with you on having goals as well. Keeps you focussed as well as incentivised. Something that took me a while to bring from my day job into writing (which I want to be my day job!). Shout if you need any help in 2014. From what I have read of yours I have no doubt it will be another cracking year for you.
Thanks for the optimistic outlook for 2014. I also think it will be a good year (but I’m an eternal optimist)! I saw you also set writing goals for yourself, so I think we operate in a similar fashion. It’s nice to find a kindred spirit. Good luck to you in finding writing success in 2014.
You did very well. I’ve been reading your blog long enough to know you are very self-competitive. About now, ALL my stuff is unfinished. it’s not for lack of organization. It’s for finding the mojo after I work on a computer all day. it’s for physical discomfort from having nerve damage and forcing myself to sit in a chair after I did that all day. I need to find your relentless motivation.
Side note based on something you wrote in the first paragraph about success equaling sales: Of all the people involved in the process of publishing a work of writing, isn’t it sad that the writer is the one least likely to make money on it? When I freelance edit someone’s project, the thought occasionally hits me: “I’m going to make more money off this thing than the writer is.”
Thanks for the kind words, Eric. For the most part I’m pleased with my 2013, but I know I have it in me to do a little better than I did, thus the feeling of some disappointment, too.
I find your observation on writing and money interesting. I’d never thought of it that way, but you’re spot on. Also, I should note that I think sales don’t necessarily mean success for every writer. Success is linked to what you want out your writing. If turning it into a day job (or a viable 1b) is the goal, then sales are part of the success. Otherwise, success could be anything.
For sure, many writers write for pleasure and success can be in finishing or being able to see a tangible result of the labor. Or simply getting the story out. But then there are those of us who want to GET PAID, and I think we know who we are.