2011 Writing Goals

Last night on Second Life at our regular Monday night meeting, The Quillians (the SF & Fantasy writing group I belong to) were discussing writing goals for 2011.

Ideally, these goals should stretch us as writers, but not be so bold as to be impossible. I mean, that’s the definition of a good goal, right? It’s all well and good to say “I’ll write four complete novels in 2011,” but it’s quite another thing to find the time—and the ideas—to do it.

I’ve taken a seminar on goal-setting. They stressed the importance for goals being SMART. That’s Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Well, the Measurable and Timely are already taken care of: Measurable = a finished project and Timely = by the end of 2011.

So I’m left with Specific, Attainable, and Realistic.

Specific is also pretty easy to do in writing. Specific for me will be either a novel, novella, novelette, short story, or flash. So that’s another one out of the way, and I’m left with Attainable and Realistic, which sort of go together.

For the last five years, I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo. The first two years, I crashed and burned because I didn’t have an idea what I was writing before I started. I foolishly thought I could just pound out 50,000 words in 30 days with no preparation. With no idea of a plot, characters, or setting.

Yeah. Right.

The last three years, I won1 by completing 50,000 words in 30 days. All three times, I intimately knew my characters, setting, and where I wanted the plot to go. The rules say you don’t start writing the story until November 1: you can do as much preparation as you want before that.

This is where Attainable and Realistic come in. I know that I can write 50,000 words in 30 days. I know that, in fact, I can write 78,000 words in 30 days if I’m really motivated, because that’s how far I got in November of 2010.

But it really burns me out. I haven’t written but about 1000 words since November 30th. So being able to do a thing for a short while and being able to do it every day for a year are vastly different things. At 2,500 words/day, I could, conceivably, write 912,500 words before the end of 2011, but that would drive me clinically insane, I think.

So, that being said, here are what I believe are Attainable, Realistic goals:

  • Finish my 2010 NaNoWriMo SF novel Killing Time by the end of January.
  • Edit/rewrite Killing Time before the end of June.
  • Finish my urban fantasy novel Perdition’s Flames by the end of June.
  • Edit/rewrite Perdition’s Flames before the end of December.
  • Write 15,000 words of new short fiction by June 30, 2011
  • Submit at least one piece of short fiction for publication.
  • Submit ~8000 words to Viable Paradise by June 15.
  • Critique regularly for the Quillians, Lawrenceville SF & Fantasy Writing Group, and The Fountain Pen. (This is a gimme, since I already mostly do this, but I could do better.)
  • Regularly submit for critique for all three groups.

When put down in writing, this doesn’t seem like a lot. But as of this entry, Killing Time is at 78,989 words and needs to be about 100,000. Perdition’s Flames is at 35,538 words, will probably be right at 50,000 or 60,000 when “finished,” and then must be edited to flesh it out to be about 100,000 words. And 15,000 words of new fiction in half of the year is kind of a group goal that we were challenged to take on by Sherry, one of the members of the Quillians. I have a good number of short stories that are either unfinished or need editing to be ready to submit. And one new short that’s clamoring to be written set in the same universe as my urban fantasy novels.

The two “submit” goals are the ones that are my “stretch.” I’ve never submitted anything to be published because I’ve never felt anything was “ready.” And so that’s where all the critiquing comes in. The only way I can know if I’m getting better is for people to tell me that the story is ready. Or not.

Three of the last four goals aren’t time-constrained because they’re not independent goals. They rely on the input of other people and the completion of other items, so it’s impossible for me to say “Submit a story for publication by March 1″ because I might not have anything ready by then. The Viable Paradise one is constrained because there is a deadline for submission. For those that don’t know, Viable Paradise is a week-long, residential writers workshop held on (in?) Martha’s Vineyard in the fall of each year. As a side goal, I’d like to read something by each of this year’s instructors, as well. Just to get to know their work.

So, anyway, those are my writing goals for 2011. They’re subject to change as situations change, but I hope that I will add to them rather than dropping any of them.

[Note: As an added comment: I first posted this using a Mac-based blog client called Blogo. It pretty much screwed the format, and will not be used again. Thank goodness for trial versions. I hope none of you saw the first version and were appalled.]


  1. You don’t actually win anything other than the satisfaction of having accomplished the seemingly impossible.

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