Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Revisiting Goals and Achievements

What I'm Reading: A More Perfect Union by J.A. Jance
What I'm writing: Unexpected Danger, final edits before submission. An aside--I hadn't looked at the manuscript since prior to going to Africa, and the separation was a beneficial one. First, I caught a few things that had made perfect sense when I wrote them, but with my sieve-brain memory, when I read them again, I couldn't figure out what was going on. And, in some places, I didn't remember what was coming next! Second, overall, I liked the book. I didn't find so many crutch words (still have too many 'moments', plus another list to cull), and there were scenes that triggered emotional responses.

It's January 1st, and time for the obligatory New Year reflections. I don't make resolutions--haven't for years. At least not for me. I do make them for my husband, however. Works better that way. Not that he keeps them, but at least I'm not breaking them.

About a year ago, I tried to follow Roxanne St. Claire’s advice in a goal-setting workshop. I created my Goal Setting Notebook. The cover, in my mediocre calligraphy says, 2007 Goals.

From there, I broke things down into basic categories, and I guess it’s time to see what I accomplished, since I have to be honest and admit I abandoned writing down what I was doing along the way, and only re-discovered the notebook when I was looking for something handy to take to South Africa for journal-keeping. Not counting my neatly-penned title page, I wrote something on a grand total of 11 of the pages (and we’re not talking big pages here—under 4x6 inches). And almost all those entries were jotted down in January.

My long-term, broad goals were:

A. Productivity, sub-headed with Finish Two Books.
Yes! I wasn’t thinking about this as a goal once I got into the writing, but I finished Hidden Fire, my option book for Cerridwen Press, which is now under contract, and Unexpected Danger, which is with my agent. When Danger Calls, which is with Five Star Publishing for a December 2008 release was technically “finished” at the end of 2006, but went through edits and revisions. Still, I’m not going to count it. Or the short story I wrote and contracted with The Wild Rose Press, but I will make a note to include at least 2 short stories for 2008 goals (if I write them down).

B. Craft, sub headed Learn About Pacing
Sorta-kinda. I had my crit partners alerted to flag anything that slowed the pace (too fast hasn’t seemed to be a problem). I went to workshops that addressed the topic. Did I learn how to do it? Not sure, but feedback from reviewers and the agents and editors I’d queried with When Danger Calls said it was a fast-paced read. So, although I still don’t know “how” to do it, it appears I’ve improved on that score.

C. Increase Presence/Visibility
Medium marks for this one, too. Although since I started at ground zero, I could probably increase my score to a medium-high. I’ve got my website, this blog, and have tried to hang at some of the on-line groups. However, it’s time consuming and I have no real way to measure success. I made chapter books for my two print books, and started participating in signings once I had print books to sign. I went to 3 conferences, and have signed up for 2 already this year and will be on panels.

D. Career
I submitted another novel to Cerridwen, and a short story to Wild Rose Press, both of which were contracted. I sold a book to Five Star, “sold” being the operative word. They pay advances. And, I got an agent. On paper this looks fantastic. Internally, it didn’t happen the way I expected. Agents were still rejecting my submissions, telling me I was a very talented writer, but the material wasn’t ‘quite right’ for them. I think that might related to my mystery leanings rather than suspense, but I’m not sure I’m ever going to change my writing, and that’s another subject. The book sale came as a result of a clich├ęd ‘elevator pitch’ although at the time, I had no idea I was talking to an acquiring editor. I was at SleuthFest, and my romance-oriented books, although set against mysteries, straddle the genres. He asked a few questions, I talked about my book, he invited me to his table in the pitch room (at which point I tried very hard not to look as dumb as I felt) the next day. I took his flyer for their Expressions line, he had me sit and chat, asked me to email him the full, and I did. When the contract offer came, I still had no agent, and nobody seemed all that excited about their cut of the small advance, but Kelly Mortimer said she’d negotiate the contract, and I ended up signing with her.

Looking back, I’d say I met most of my goals. And although I have no doubts that the system is a good one, and I’ll outline 2008 goals, I think I know I’m just not organized or efficient enough to keep things in writing. Heck, I don’t outline my plots, and I never even got around to writing that to-do list for my trip to Africa.

What works for you?


Macy O'Neal said...

I'm going to give the goal notebook one more chance, but I'm modifying it to work for me. (I hope.)

I met about half my goals. Last night as I analyzed where I fell short and why, I discovered I really was pushing myself beyond my learning curve. I'm caught up now and writing much better stuff with a much greater grasp of craft (still a long way to go). Hopefully, I'll surpass all of this year's goals, which I'll be posting later today or tomorrow at my blog.


Dara Edmondson said...

Congrats on meeting so many goals! You have nowhere to go but up!

Terry Odell said...

Good luck, Macy -- I have a hardly used notebook you can try!

Dara -- thanks. Of course, I didn't WRITE those books in 07--the successes took years to achieve. But sometimes when a door opens, it opens a lot wider than you predicted.

Nancy Robards Thompson said...

To me, the New Year feels like a clean slate, the perfect time to reevaluate where I am and where I want to be. Here’s my take: whether you call them goals or resolutions, as long as you write down your intentions in specific terms (“I will write three pages per day five days per week,” instead of saying, “I want to write a book this year”) – you’re off to a good start. Happy 2008!

Terry Odell said...

LOL, Nancy. It's not the goal, or the resolution aspect for me. It's the writing them down! I've internalized the 'write xx per day part and don't need (or like?) to be reminded by staring at it. I'm so undisciplined. But it works for me now because I still really enjoy the writing. After all, otherwise it would be doing dishes or laundry or some other dreaded task.

Carol Ann Erhardt said...

Kudos to you on your accomplishments and on the notebook. I simply list my goals on a small piece of paper that I keep tacked to the bottom of my monitor where I see it every day. Keeps me focused and motivated!

Happy New Year, Terry!

Carol Ann

Katie Reus said...

Congrats Terry! Sounds like you fit quite a lot into one year :) I really like the goal notebook idea too!

mimi said...

I think Nancy has a good point. I'm forever setting huge goals (think "revolutionize the publishing world!") that have very little connection to what I could actually accomplish.

So this year, smaller goals. Manageable things, like a page count or finishing a proposal and actually putting it in the mail. But I'm definitely diving into the Julia Cameron to feed the creative side. I've been dry for a while and need to prime the pump. Two days of morning pages so far! Baby steps!

Terry Odell said...

So true, Mimi. Instead of 'I'm going to lose 10 pounds', it's going to be, 'I'm going to make healthy eating choices' and 'I'm going to the Y 4 times a week.' As for writing, 'finish a novel' is almost a dream goal, like 'make the best seller list.' You have no control over the latter, but you can break down 'finish a novel' in to daily word/page count goals.

I need to START a nove1! I get cranky if I'm not creating something.