Monday, March 27, 2006

Setting goals

Inspired by my recent success in getting some fiction published, I've started working on fiction again. On Friday, once my freelancing work for the week was done, I decided to start work on an old short story of mine that I've been planning to rewrite. The short story was one I originally wrote for a creative writing class in high school, and needless to say I've found a lot that needs fixing. Not that I'm an experienced writer now by any means, but suffice it to say that I've learned a few things about telling a story that I didn't know back then.

I was hoping to finish the story by the end of the weekend, but alas, that was not to be... The story has evolved into something much longer than the original, partly because one of the things I have learned since high school is the "show, not tell" rule. Another thing that helps is that this time, I'm not worried about keeping the story under a certain word count, which of course enables me to "show" a bit more. Expanding on a story can apparently be a lot harder than writing one from scratch, though; I keep having a hard time deciding where to go with it next, without wandering too far from the original intent of the story.

In any case, with the start of a new week I have freelancing work to do again, so I've decided to allot an hour a day to working on the story. Normally, for me that would mean about six pages of fiction, but this story is clearly much slower going. I'm mainly hoping to finish it in the next week or two.

Once this story is finished, I have several others that need to be written, and one or two that I never went back to edit. My long-term goal here is to get through my short story ideas that have been waiting to be written, and then start work on a novel - which will satisfy my second New Year's Resolution.

I've hesitated to assign myself a daily time quota for certain tasks, as a few how-to-write books recommend, but I think in this case it's a good idea. With my freelance work, I tend to view it more as per project, instead of a time frame, which seems to work pretty well for getting it done. Fiction, on the other hand, often isn't something that I'll be likely to get done all in one or two sittings (especially with other work to do), so if I want to get somewhere with it I need to divide it up into smaller bites. In this case, the time-quote plan works well. In other cases, a page or chapter goal might be best.

I guess the moral of my weekend was that setting goals is, indeed, a good thing - when they are reasonable expectations, that is. (My to-do list, which fails almost on a daily basis, comes to mind.) There is something very satisfying about meeting one's goals, even if they are in bite-size pieces. In fact, setting daily goals keeps it from snowballing into one giant, unreachable goal...and nothing is more discouraging than one of those.

Maybe those how-to-write books have the right idea, after all... (No pun intended.)

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