Last year I set some numbers goals for my writing life. I wanted to submit every week, edit one major work per month, and write every day. The sheer volume of the work, I thought, would produce results.
The hardest of those goals to achieve was to write every day. In fact, when NaNoWriMo came around, I struggled writing at all. I ended up abandoning one project and starting another one on which I made only modest progress.
The second hardest was the revision work. Turns out, revising is harder than I thought it was. In the past, I’ve just opened the work and read it, making small tweaks here and there. But in this year’s efforts, I was trying to get the work publish-ready. I needed more specific processes and outcomes for revising. I abandoned the rotation by June and just focused on the vampire novel.
The third goal, submitting every week, worked well until football season when my Saturdays were no longer available for perusing Submittable.com and spot-editing stories for submission. I had a few four- and five-submission sessions and was able to put in 52 literary journal submissions this year. The results were less encouraging: just one story accepted.
Any time we set goals and work toward them, we learn something about ourselves.
As an entrepreneur, I live by the “build, measure, learn” mantra of new endeavors. In my writing life in 2018, I built some volume-based goals. Then I measured my success in achieving those goals and their relationship with achieving the results I wanted in my writing life. So, what have I learned?
I need an action plan for revision that includes specific tasks, tools, and foci to make sure I make real progress on the book. This year I’m working the vampire novel through a beta reader and preparing Interstate Butterflies, a GenX novel, for the 2020 South Carolina Novel Prize contest. I need plans for both that break “revision” into manageable tasks assigned to the time I have available and executed as work.
I need to focus “submit” activities on the very best work. I only queried three agents and three small presses this year for After December, my finished novel (or my finished Word document as it were). I need to increase those numbers, focusing on getting attention on a single piece instead of working the portfolio of stories. That singular focus will increase the odds of acceptance.
Lastly, the “write every day” goal was one I did very well at except I wasn’t always writing fiction. I need to block that fiction writing time off and guard it. Don’t let anything interfere with it. And commit to what I plan to write before I sit down so I don’t waste time wandering through a piece and wondering where I need to pick up.
While I’ve been writing for pleasure since I was 13, I’ve only been working this “job” of writing for five years and, even at that, it’s been a part time labor of learning. While I’m a little discouraged by 2018’s results, I know that year-over-year I’m still better off now than I was before. Incremental progress is how we get better at things. I’m confident 2019 will afford more opportunities in my writing life.