Every year around this time I set out my goals for the year in a blog post. In theory I’m doing it for the personal accountability – if I make a public declaration of intent, I’m much more likely to see it through, right?
Well, no, not if my track record is anything to go by. Normally I miss most of my targets by somewhere between a sliver and a yawing gulf. If this were photography, all I’d have to show for myself are a portfolio of blurry shots of Bigfoot-like hikers, clumps of flotsam passingly resembling Nessie, and a series I’d call UFOs or Overexposed Clouds – You Decide.
It doesn’t matter to me much if I don’t hit the specific targets I set out to hunt. As long as I accomplish something in the vicinity, I’m usually happy.
So, with the year’s broadest caveat out of the way, let’s have a look at what I want to get done this year.
Publishing a book
Very soon now, I’ll announce details of my book project. Subscribers to the newsletter (are you one?) have already had a sneak peek of my upcoming release, and I’ll go into it more on the blog soon. Until I get a few more loose ends screwed down, though I’ll stick to vague hints.
What I will say is this is a self-training process. I’m learning how to publish a book – or more specifically, how I will publish books, since there’s a million ways to skin that cat. I may or may not ever use those skills again (I probably will) but I find value in knowing how it’s done.
So. New book. Soonish.
I track my word counts. Which means, at the end of every day, I record how many new words I wrote, and in roughly what form. Last year my totals were a bit over 110,000 words, which included fiction – aborted novels, short stories and flash fiction- and non-fiction – blog posts, newsletters and various other tidbits that I decided counted towards a productive writing life.
That’s actually not much writing: it breaks down to about 300 words a day. Which if you include blog posts like this one in the stats, makes my fiction output look pretty scant. Which it was, if I’m honest.
This year I’ve tweaked my word count spreadsheets. (Yeah, sorry, this is super-nerdy, but useful for me). My daily stats will separate fiction (and very limited forms of creative non-fiction) from more prosaic blogging, critiquing and various administrative wordage.
For the fiction, I have a target in mind – 100,000 words for the year. That means a lot more story writing than I managed in 2017, but I’m pretty sure I can do it. For one thing, the weekly flash fiction project has a word count in the vicinity of 1000 words a week, which means I’ll hit half my target by not breaking my weekly streak.
As for the rest of it, I have plans for another novel project, I have an ongoing serial and I have a couple of half-finished stories to work on. And if previous years are anything to go by, new opportunities will come up all the time.
My plan is to carry on publishing a new story on the blog every Friday morning. Some of them will be good, some of them will be written at 11 pm the previous night and may not withstand close scrutiny under the light of a new day. Nevertheless, I’m shooting for the appearance of reliability, if nothing else.
Building on the flash fiction muscles I’m working out, I plan to write more in the 2000 – 4000 word range. It’s not an easy space for me to work in – short enough to not get bogged down with details, but long enough to introduce more characters and complexity than is possible in a flash piece.
I could use the practice. Most of my non-flash work over the last couple of years has tended to be in the 8 to 12K novelette range. If I don’t have a hard word limit to work within, I tend to sprinkle in secondary characters and subplots like I’m on a bombing run. There’s almost certainly a fruitful middle ground I’ve not explored in depth.
Well, I wrote one over the last eighteen months, but I’m not happy with it. Apart from the usual issues of first drafts – plodding sections, redundant characters, subplots that explode like a dropped bomb etc – I realised that I’d committed an even worse sin: I wrote the wrong book. To be clear, I wrote the first novel in a series, in a genre I don’t enjoy enough to want to commit to in the long term. Bad idea, setting myself up for burnout and worse.
I do have a couple of novel projects in mind, either of which would be exactly in my wheelhouse. I’ll take my time and develop both ideas, and I won’t start writing them until I’m sure they’ve had time to percolate. So I *may* start on a new novel this year, but I can’t say when.
I’ll probably have to learn how to do this. Worse, I’ll probably have to learn how to enjoy it.
Seriously though, part and parcel of producing the book will be tinkering with various options for getting the book in front of people who might enjoy reading it. Finding an audience for their work is the number one frustration I hear cited by writers, and I have no reason to doubt that I’ll have the same issue. So I’m also going to learn the basics of marketing and promotion.
That is a phrase I doubt I have used any time in my life before this point.
So that’s what I’ve got line up for 2018 – a few exciting new things, and a lot more of what was already working.